Lithium Battery Chemistries: Different Chemistries for Different Applications

Like all technology, lithium-ion batteries have evolved incorporating new chemistries for different applications and increased performance. Like most batteries, the lithium-ion version offers the same components inside the cell to produce power from a chemical reaction—a positive electrode, a negative electrode, and an electrolyte. 

Lithium cobalt oxide-based batteries

Cobalt oxide-based battery further referred to as LCO, is a mature battery technology characterized by long cycle lifetime and high energy density. Moreover, LCO is the most popular battery technology used in portable electronic devices due to its excellent charging/discharging rate and high energy density. LCO consists of a cobalt oxide positive electrode as a cathode and a graphite carbon negative electrode as an anode. A typical LCO battery cell is rated at 3.7 V. However, due to concerns with safety and the high price of cobalt, LCO batteries are not suitable for automotive applications. Another disadvantage of LCO-based batteries is represented by their poor thermal stability.

 Fig 1: Lithium Cobalt Oxide Batteries
Fig 1: Lithium Cobalt Oxide Batteries

Lithium manganese oxide-based batteries

Manganese oxide (LiMn2O4) based battery, further referred to as LMO, has a higher nominal voltage than LCO-based battery cells, rated between 3.8 and 4 V. On the other hand, the energy density of LMO batteries is approximately 20% less than the ones of LCO batteries. Other important attributes of LMO battery cells are high thermal stability, lower cost, and improved safety. However, due to its relatively short cycle life and high capacity losses, the LMO battery cell is not suitable for electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles nor hybrid plug-in electric vehicle applications. LMO batteries do not have good power nor energy density.

Fig 2: Lithium Manganese Oxide Batteries
Fig 2: Lithium Manganese Oxide Batteries

Lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide-based batteries

Nickel cobalt aluminum oxide based battery, further referred as NCA, has a lower voltage and a better safety characteristic, compared with LCO-based battery. Furthermore, NCA-based batteries perform well in terms of power density, energy density and lifetime. The main drawbacks of this Li-ion battery chemistry are coming from their reduced safety and high cost.

Fig 3: Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminium Oxide Batteries
Fig 3: Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminium Oxide Batteries

Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide-based batteries

The cathode of lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) is composed of cobalt, nickel, and manganese. The most commonly used NMC composition contains equal amounts of all three transition metals. NMC-based battery cells have a high capacity, good rate capability, and can operate at high voltages.

Fig 4: Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide Batteries
Fig 4: Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide Batteries

Lithium Iron phosphate-based Batteries

Iron phosphate (LiFePO4) based battery, further referred to as LFP, represents extremely attractive battery chemistry, because of its characteristics such as high capacity, low cost (lower than LCO batteries), flat voltage profile, and low environmental impact. LFP batteries are operating similar to NCA batteries, but with a higher degree of safety. Moreover, LFP batteries are considered suitable for being used in stationary, automotive, and back-up power applications because their characteristics (i.e. high safety, good thermal stability, long lifetime, and low self-discharge rate) are matching the demands of these applications.

Fig 5: Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries
Fig 5: Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries

Lithium Titanate Oxide-based Batteries

Titanate oxide (Li4Ti5O12) based battery, further referred to as LTO, is using lithium titanate nanocrystals on the anode surface, instead of carbon. This fact represents an advantage of LTO battery cells because they can release ions repeatedly for recharging and rapidly for high current. LTO has a spinel-framework structure and is characterized by a two-phase electrochemical process evolving with a relatively flat voltage profile. LTO-based batteries offer advantages in terms of power and stability, but they have a lower voltage level than the other Li-ion battery chemistries. However, this lower operating voltage brings advantages in terms of safety.

The characteristics of LTO include high cycling stability, no electrolyte decomposition, and thus no solid electrolyte interface formation, high rate/discharge capability, and high thermal stability in both charge and discharge state. Moreover, LTO-based batteries can operate at low temperatures. These characteristics make LTO a promising candidate for their use in stationary and back-up power applications.

Fig 6: Lithium Titanate Oxide Batteries
Fig 6: Lithium Titanate Oxide Batteries

Summary of Different Chemistries

The table below provides a summary of the different chemistries discussed above.

ChemistryNominal Voltage[V]Energy Density[Wh/kg]Cycles Life[cycles]PropertiesApplications
LCO[Lithium Cobalt Oxide]3.7110-190500-1000High safety risk, good lifetimeused in portable electronic devices
LMO[Lithium Manganese Oxide]3.8100-1201000Cheaper, safer than LiCoO2 and LiNiO2used in car audio applications and mobile medical devices
NCA[Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminium]3.6100-1502000-3000High Energy, High Density, Expensive
NMC[Lithium Nickel Manganese Oxide]3.6100-1702000-3000High Voltage, Good Specific Capacity, High Safety Risk, Good Lifetimeused in electric cars are portable electronics
LFP[Lithium Iron Phosphate]3.390-115>3000Long Lifetime, High Stability, Basic Low Costgood potential replacement for lead-acid batteries in applications such as automotive and solar applications
LTO[Lithium Titanate Oxide]2.260-75>5000Negligible Volume Expansion, Basic low cost, Stable electrochemical operation, high thermal stabilityused in car audio applications as well as mobile medical devices

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Keyword: Lithium, Lithium ion Battery, Lithium construction designs

Reference: Stan, Ana-Irina & Swierczynski, Maciej & Stroe, Daniel-Ioan & Teodorescu, Remus & Andreasen, Søren. (2014). Lithium-ion battery chemistries from renewable energy storage to automotive and back-up power applications — An overview. 2014 International Conference on Optimization of Electrical and Electronic Equipment, OPTIM 2014. 713-720. 10.1109/OPTIM.2014.6850936.