Lithium – What is it?
Lithium batteries are commonly used in consumer electronics but the global interest in lithium batteries of late has generated state-of-the-art breakthroughs in lithium battery technology opening up new markets and applications. The trend seems to be moving away from traditional lead acid batteries in favour of lightweight lithium based batteries. The technology is developing so quickly that Standards Australia has recently announced it is forming working groups to update the current standards in relation to energy storage.
Lithium Battery “Megafactories” in China
Production capacities of lithium batteries are on the rise and China seems to be the place it’s all happening. It is anticipated that production will triple by 2020. Previously an expensive option for industry and home consumers, lithium batteries are now well within reach. Large-scale facilities are popping up all over China and this surge in production capability shows that the lithium batteries industry means business and is serious about reducing unit cost and becoming a market forerunner.
Lithium Mining in Australia
Obviously to make lithium batteries one requires the resources. Global technology companies are seeking a reliable supply of lithium for their battery suppliers, electric/hybrid vehicle manufacturing and even some military and aerospace applications. Australia is an emerging lithium market with the potential to be a world leader in lithium production. Australia currently has 14 ASX listed companies with lithium deposits and is already one of the world’s top producers.
Lithium Battery Production in China
Radlink Communications, a Perth based Telecommunications Company, have been working on an innovative modular and scalable energy storage solution, initially for the mining industry. This has taken them to Melbourne, China and Hong Kong to work with leading edge lithium battery solutions providers and collaborate with them in the development of highly energy dense yet safe battery solutions for extreme industrial temperatures (up to 65 deg C) with extraordinary longevity (up to6000 charge-discharge cycles or about 16 years of daily usage). Radlink’s solution is specifically targeted at parties who require high temperature storage in a robust 19-inch form factor. Radlink have kindly provided some photos from their recent trip to China. In the photos below you can see the lithium battery cells in various stages of production.
Manufactured cells undergo rigorous testing in a controlled environment.
The below image displays 256 cells per cabinet of batteries being tested, and there are about 120 cabinets in the temperature controlled test chamber.
Cells after testing and grading.
Cells are then turned into battery packs by human operators.
Then the lithium batteries are dispatched all over the world for sale to users.
Other areas of interest relating to lithium batteries….
Lithium and Dangerous Goods Safety:
Lithium batteries contain more energy per unit of weight than traditional batteries which is great for energy storage but does create safety concerns as high-energy density can produce hazards if the energy is released at a fast, uncontrolled rate. This is a common concern in the aviation industry.
Lithium and the Electric Car:
In 2016, Tesla Motors plan to bring their new batteries to Australia, which will join Germany as the company's first two markets outside the US. Tesla have already installed electric car charging stations in Victoria and New South Wales called “Superchargers”.
Lithium & Solar:
The lithium & solar market is emerging in Australia. Local energy provider Ergon in QLD is currently running a trial with 33 Toowoomba homes having state-of-the-art rooftop solar and battery systems installed in their homes. It is expected their electricity bills will be significantly reduced as approximately 75 per cent of their power will be generated by the sun. It is predicted that these in-home batteries, such as the Tesla Powerwall could produce not only domestic power but also feed power back into the grid when the network is overextended in the summer months. The desirable combination of solar and lithium has unlimited potential and meets many of Australia’s energy needs. It could very likely be the future of off-the-grid energy, helping to reduce the cost and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia.
If you want to learn more about the lithium battery industry in Australia then why not attend the upcoming Lithium Batteries Conference in Sydney on May 24th & 25th 2016. The aim of this conference is to explore industry issues and the future of lithium mining and technology advancement in Australia. Lithium industry experts will share their technical knowledge and discuss how the upsurge of lithium battery demand will affect the mining, technology, manufacturing, solar, recycling, electric vehicles and dangerous goods industries. The event will also cover recent research developments and how these can be applied in the real world to benefit industry and the Australian consumer.
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