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Chemical and Solar Cells

Introduction to different sources of voltage.

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Lithium Lasts Longer

Lithium Lasts Longer

Credit: Lukas A, CZE
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Energizer_lithium.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Lithium-ion batteries are extremely popular. You may use lithium-ion batteries like this one in your battery-operated electronic devices. Other lithium-ion batteries no doubt power your cell phone and lap top. In fact, lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized consumer devices such as computers and cell phones. Lithium-ion batteries are even used to power electric cars. How do batteries work? What is lithium, and why is it so useful for batteries?

News You Can Use

  • Lithium-ion batteries are chemical cells, and all chemical cells work the same basic way. Chemical reactions cause a stream of charged particles to flow from one terminal to the other. A wire connected to the opposite terminals can carry electric current and run electric devices.
  • Lithium is an alkali metal and the metal with the lowest density. Like other alkali metals, lithium is very reactive. That’s why it’s found in nature only in combination with other elements.
  • Credit: Kevin Krejci
    Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinkrejci/4836360667
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Lithium batteries can also be found in electric powered cars [Figure2]

  • Lithium is so reactive, that it even reacts vigorously with cold water. You can see how reactive lithium is by watching the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7FCR9Ja6yM (Don’t try this at home!)

Show What You Know

Learn more about lithium and lithium-ion batteries at the links below. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How does a chemical cell work?
  2. How do rechargeable batteries work? Why are they a big improvement over batteries that cannot be recharged?
  3. Describe in detail what happens when a lithium-ion battery is used.
  4. Describe in detail what happens when a lithium-ion battery is recharged.
  5. What are advantages of using lithium in rechargeable batteries compared with the older nickel-cadmium batteries or the big lead-acid batteries used in cars?
  6. What are two other uses of lithium?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Lukas A, CZE; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Energizer_lithium.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Kevin Krejci; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinkrejci/4836360667; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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