Powering into the future

By Dr Denis Yu, Assistant Professor, School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong
By Dr Denis Yu, Assistant Professor, School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong |
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The battery is an essential part of our daily lives. Most people carry at least one battery with them at all times. Maybe it is inside a watch, a mobile phone or a tablet.

One of the most common rechargeable batteries is the lithium-ion battery. It is popular because it can store a lot of energy. The first commercial lithium-ion battery was made by Sony back in 1991.

Making a battery is simple. You just need a positive electrode (made of lithium cobalt oxide), a negative electrode and a way to transport the ions. The very first battery, invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800, used this principle.

The lithium-ion battery can help develop renewable energies and power electric vehicles (EVs). By replacing petrol vehicles with EVs, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency. However, there is still a hidden cost: the price of producing the battery.

The manufacturing process, and transportation, can be costly. The lithium needed to make the batteries is mainly found in remote places in South America, while cobalt is found in Congo, Africa. So the economic and environmental costs of making the batteries are significant.

But here at CityU, we are doing our best to research low-cost materials so we can make these batteries cheaply and easily.

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