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Battery Raw Materials

Batteries use diverse elements, which are harvested from the earth’s crust. It is thought provoking that most of these materials are also shared by plants and living beings. We are made from stardust and anything that grows and moves comes from these resources. As with all living organisms, the substances for batteries are chosen carefully and in the right amount to achieve a harmonious interaction. Too much of one part could spoil a fine balance.



Aluminum is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic metal with symbol Al. Derived from bauxite, it is the third most abundant element in the earth's crust after oxygen and silicon. When exposed to air, aluminum forms a passivation layer that protects the metal from corrosion. Aluminum is used as cathode material in some lithium-ion batteries.


Antimony is a brittle lustrous white metallic element with symbol Sb. It was discovered in 3000 BC and mistaken as for lead. The main producer is China and the metal is used in lead acid batteries to reinforce the lead plates, reduce maintenance, and enhance performance. Other applications are flame-proofing materials, producing low friction applications, improving material characteristics by mixing Sb with other alloys and building semiconductors.


Cadmium is a soft bluish-white metal with symbol Cd. Discovered in 1817 in Germany, cadmium is a by-product of zinc production and was used as a pigment and plating on steel to resist corrosion. Cadmium is used as the anode material for the nickel-cadmium batteries, but the Restrictions of Hazardous Substances Directives banned the batteries for commercial use.


Calcium is a soft gray alkaline metal with symbol Ca that was discovered by Humphry Davy (1778–1829). It is the fifth most abundant element by mass in the earth's crust and plays an essential role for living organisms to build bone, teeth and shells. Calcium improves the mechanical strength of lead plates in lead acid batteries and enhances performance.


Chloride is a negatively charged ion that forms when chlorine gains an electron or when hydrogen chloride is dissolved in water or in other solvents. Chloride salts, such as sodium chloride, are used as table salt and to preserve food. Chloride is also present in body fluids as well as in the electrolyte of batteries.


Iron is the most common element on earth by mass. The symbol Fe comes from Latin “ferrum.” Iron metal has been used since ancient times, although copper alloys with lower melting temperatures came before iron. Pure iron is relatively soft, and it can be hardened with carbon. Iron compounds play an important role in biology and are also used in the lithium-iron-phosphate-oxide battery.


Lead is a soft, malleable heavy metal in the carbon group with symbol Pb. It is used in lead acid batteries, bullets, and weights and as a radiation shield. Lead has the highest atomic number of all stable elements and is toxic if ingested; it damages the nervous system and causes brain disorders. Lead poisoning has been documented from ancient Rome, Greece, and China.


Manganese with symbol Mn is produced by mining iron and other minerals. The metal is a relatively abundant and is mined worldwide except in North America. Steel manufacturing uses roughly 90 percent of manganese production; the remaining 10% is used in specialty chemical and agricultural. High grade, high purity manganese is in growing demand for Li-ion batteries. Manganese is named after the region of “Magnesia” in Greece where the black mineral was found. Manganese is used to prevent steel corrosion and serves as cathode material in Li-ion, zinc-carbon, and alkaline batteries.


Nickel with symbol Ni is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. It can be traced back to 3500 BC. Nickel is mostly confined to larger nickel–iron meteorites; on earth it is found in combination with iron. Mythology links the name nickel to Old Nick, a mischievous gnome who argued that copper-nickel ores resisted refinement into copper. Nickel is well suited for battery electrodes.


Silver (Ag) is a soft, white, lustrous metal that has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of any metals. It occurs naturally but most of it is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead and zinc refining. Silver was used for monetary coins together with the more valuable gold. In industry, silver is used in solar panels and water filtration, as well as jewelry and high-value silverware. Other uses are electrical contacts and conductors, mirrors, window coatings, photographic film and X-rays. In medicine, silver compounds serve as disinfectants that are added to bandages and wound dressings. Silver is also found in the Silver-zinc battery.


Sodium, with symbol Na, is a soft, silver-white, highly reactive metal that belongs to the six elements in the periodic table with a single electron in its outer shell. By donating the electron, the atom becomes positively charged. Sodium is the sixth most abundant element in the earth's crust but is derived from minerals. It was first isolated by Humphry Davy in 1807 by electrolysis of sodium hydroxide. Sodium compounds are used for soap-making and de-icing agent, and, not to forget, edible salt on our dining room tables. It is an essential element for living beings and plants; it is also used in Sodium-sulfur and Lithium-sulfur batteries.


Spinel is a hard-glassy mineral consisting of an oxide of magnesium and aluminum that forms a three-dimensional chemical structure. Spinels were known as rubies, and now belong to the most famous gemstones in shades of red, blue, green, yellow, brown and black. Manganese-based Li ion batteries consist of a spinel structure in which the cathode forms a three-dimensional framework that appears after initial formation. Spinel batteries are known for their low resistance.


Sulfur (or Sulphur) is a bright yellow, non-metal chemical element with symbol S. It occurs naturally and is sought after by mineral collectors for its distinct colors and shapes. Sulfur was known in ancient India, Greece, China, and Egypt; the Bible refers to it as brimstone, meaning burning stone. Sulfur has the odor of rotting eggs; fumes from burning sulfur were used in fumigating and as a healing agent. Sulfur made the best gunpowder and is also used in matches, insecticides, and fungicides. The largest industrial use is fertilizer because it is an essential element for all life. Extracted from salt domes in the past, almost all sulfur is now a by-product of gas and petroleum production. Sulfur compounds are also used in the Sodium-sulfur battery.


The name comes from Tantalus, a villain from the Greek mythology. Tantalum (Ta) is a rare, hard, blue-gray, lustrous transition metal that is highly corrosion-resistant and commonly used for electronic components, such as capacitors and high-power resistors. The dielectric layer of a capacitor is very thin and achieves high capacitance in a small volume.

Africa is a large supplier of tantalum but this could change as tantalum is a by-product of lithium mining that is increasing in Australia. The need for tantalum capacitors is growing for demanding environments such as high heat. The Internet of Things (IoT), 5G infrastructure and autonomous vehicles are further area of growth for tantalum capacitors.


Tin (Sn) is a silvery, malleable metal that does not oxidize easily in the air. Appearing after bronze in ancient times, the first pure metallic tin was produced in 600 BC. Today, it is combined with many alloys, most notably tin/lead solder and corrosion-resistant tin plating of steel. Low toxicity makes tin-plated metal suitable for food packaging. Tin is also found in batteries.


Titanate usually refers to inorganic compounds composed of titanium oxides. The materials are white and have a high melting point, making them suitable for furnaces. Titanate is also used for anode material of some lithium-based batteries. Lithium-titanate batteries can be fast-charged with little stress. They are more durable than regular Li-ion with graphite anodes but hold less energy and are more expensive.


Vanadium is a hard, silvery gray metal with symbol V. Discovered in 1801 in Mexico, vanadium is found in about 65 minerals, and the metal forms a stable oxide layer once isolated. Vanadium also occurs naturally in fossil fuel deposits and is produced in China and Russia from steel smelter slag and other by-products, including uranium mining. Vanadium is used for specialty steel alloys such as high-speed tools, including the Flow Battery. The price of vanadium increased in part due to reduced availability caused by closing mines in South Africa and Russia, as well as shutdowns in China related to iron and steel markets and stricter environmental laws that also includes a ban on the import of vanadium-bearing stags. Besides the flow battery, vanadium is also used for high-strength rebar and other superior steel products. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA, is experimenting with high charge rates on Li-ion by replacing cobalt oxide with vanadium disulfide.


Zinc (Zn) is chemically similar to magnesium; combining zinc with copper turns into brass, an alloy that has been used since the 10th century BC in Judea and the 7th century BC in Greece. Zinc metal was not produced on a large scale until the 12th century in India and the late 1500s in Europe. By 1800, Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta uncovered the electrochemical properties of zinc for batteries. Other uses are corrosion-resistant zinc plating of iron and light metal castings. It is also an ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos. Zinc is an essential mineral for our physical development and well-being. Zinc deficiency affects about two billion people in the developing world. The symptoms are retardation in growth, delayed sexual maturity, vulnerable to infection and diarrhea. Excess zinc can lead to lethargy and copper deficiency.

Oxide Definition

Oxides form when oxygen bonds with elements. Exceptions are noble metals such as gold and platinum.


A chemical compound with at least one oxygen atom and another element.


Any oxide that contains one oxygen atom.


An oxide containing two oxygen atoms in its molecule or empirical formula.


A sulfide containing two atoms of sulfur in its molecule or empirical formula.


An oxide containing three atoms of oxygen in its molecule or empirical formula.


An inorganic chemical compound with one hydrogen and one oxygen atom.

Solid oxide

Elements that are being oxidized by oxygen in air or in water.


Compound containing an oxygen–oxygen single bond.


Mixed oxide and hydroxide.

Source: batteryuniversity


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