The first lead acid rechargeable battery was developed in 1859 by physicist Gaston Plante, and in 1980 John Godnav developed the lithium cobalt oxide cathode battery that was marketed by Sony and used for mobile phone batteries in 1991. To accomplish this, Godnav received the Nobel Prize in October along with fellow chemists M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino.
Lithium-ion batteries work by combining lithium oxide cathode (negative electrode), anode (negative electrode) and electrolyte (separator) used as a conductor. When the battery is charged and discharged, the ions move between the electrodes and generate energy that the battery can then use.
Only five companies in Japan, China and South Korea produce 62% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, demand has grown exponentially since 2015, when China began aggressively driving domestic electric vehicle production along with continued global growth in smartphone, tablet and laptop sales.
- China currently manufactures 60% of the world’s electric vehicles and is trying to secure control over lithium, an abundant natural mineral found in saltwater and produced mostly in South America, specifically in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
China’s Tianqi Lithium last year paid $4 billion for a stake in Chilean mining company Sociedad Química y Minera, effectively giving it control over half of global lithium production, and the industry Tianqi focuses on is the lithium-ion battery market, which is expected to increase in size from $33 billion in 2018 to more than $73 billion by 2024 according to market research firm Global Market Insights.