Lithium ion battery is a kind of secondary battery (rechargeable battery), which mainly relies on the movement of lithium ions between the positive and negative electrodes to work. During the charging and discharging process, Li+ intercalates and deintercalates back and forth between the two electrodes: during charging, Li+ deintercalates from the positive electrode and intercalates into the negative electrode through the electrolyte. The negative electrode is in a lithium-rich state; the opposite is true during discharge.

Lithium-ion is one of the possible types of batteries made based on Lithium. They’re secondary batteries, which means rechargable. Primary batteries are not rechargable, and that’s where lithium has been used for a long time.

Lithium-metal primary batteries have been around for quite some time. These use reactive metallic lithium as the anode. The typical 3V version (Li/MnO₂) is based on a manganese dioxide cathode. You probably first encouter these as “coin” or “button” cells in consumer electronics, used for very light use things like TV remote controls, clocks, old cameras, etc.

There are also much larger capacity versions. These were the go-to for all-electronic film cameras back in the 1990s and 2000s, before everything went digital and started to need rechargeable batteries.

I use lithium thionyl chloride (Li/SOCl₂) batteries for clock and security backup power in some of radio system designs. They output at around 3.6V, but more interestingly, they work down to around -55C. They’re only for very light, trickle power applications.

Recently, you can also get lithium/iron disulfide (Li/FeS₂) batteries, which have the advantage of 1.5V output, so they’re a drop-in replacement for carbon-zinc and alkaline batteries. They’re also very good at low temperatures.

Just like lithium metal batteries, lithium-ion are available in a variety of formulations.

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