Lithium titanate battery technology a boon to the energy storage market

The growth in energy storage technologies is one of the key core areas to promoting clean energy generation 

By Maitreyi Karthik
Published: Wednesday 28 June 2023
Representative image: iStock.

Lithium-ion battery (LiB) is extensively used in various electronic apparatus, electric vehicles (EV) and energy storage applications. In this technology, electric energy is generated when lithium ions are transported from one electrode to another. 

During charging and discharging cycles, the flow of electrons generates an electric current. LiB contains substantial active electrodes and a combustible electrolyte. Over-charging or internal short circuits produces heat in the cell, thereby increasing the occurrence of dangerous thermal runaway reactions. This is one of the challenges before the large-scale uptake of LiB applications. Some of the challenges of LiB can be tackled with lithium-titanate batteries.

Also read: This sand battery could be a solution for Europe’s energy crisis

A lithium-titanate or lithium titanate oxide battery is an improved version of LiB which utilises lithium-titanate nanocrystals instead of carbon on the surface of the anode. Lithium-titanate nanocrystals allow the anode to gain a surface area of around 100 square meters per gram against 3 square meters per gram for carbon. This permits the electrons to enter and exit the anode quickly.

The ability to donate or accept electrons in the electrolytic solutions of lithium ions with titanium oxides is more likely than the same reaction with graphite. This allows for fast charging capacity in the case of lithium titanate than in the case of carbon.

Lithium dendrites (extensions of metal that enter into the solid electrolyte and finally cross from one electrode to the other and ultimately short out the battery cell) are less likely to form in the case of titanate.

A table comparing various battery technologies. Source: compiled by the author.

Long charging hours have always been a bottleneck in the development of the transport industry, such as electric vehicles. Usually, the battery used in electric buses is slow-charging and the minimum charging time is around four hours.

The charging time required for electric cars is as long as eight hours. Fast charging of electric vehicles is the need of the hour as end-users do not want to waste much time on charging. 

Lithium-titanate battery offers fast charging, long battery life and low-temperature resistance. It is suitable for applications with dedicated line buses, terminal trailers and other transportation systems. 

Application in solar devices

Lithium-titanate batteries can provide a high charging and discharging rate, making them worthwhile for applications requiring quick charging and a high current. However, their energy density (energy stored per volume) is relatively low, so a large-scale system is required to achieve increased capacity.

So, if there is limited space for the solar battery bank, choosing battery storage with high energy density, such as lithium iron phosphate batteries would be better.

Moreover, if the energy demand is less, a lithium-titanate battery would be suitable, as it needs lesser solar hours to charge. Another benefit of lithium-titanate batteries is their increased resistance to high temperatures.

Also read: New material may hold promise for more efficient lithium-ion batteries

Lithium titanate batteries make suitable solar batteries when cycle life, charging / discharging rates and safety are the primary considerations.

However, energy density is comparatively low among such batteries. Further, high C-rates (the charging / discharging current divided by the nominally rated battery capacity) impact the battery’s capacity over time.

However, lithium-titanate batteries come with some disadvantages as well. Lithium titanate batteries, unlike conventional LiB, have a low inherent charge of 2.4 volts. At the same time, conventional LiB has an inherent voltage of 3.7 volts.

Lithium-titanate batteries induce low specific energy of about 30–110 watt-hours per kilogram. However, some lithium-titanate batteries have an energy density of about 177 watt hour per litre. 

The high cost of production of lithium-titanate batteries is another disadvantage. Though the cost can be brought down through scale, it cannot be changed through technology due to its weak principle.

When used over a period, lithium titanate batteries produce a small amount of gas within the soft-packed single cells. This may hamper the growth of the lithium titanate battery market.

The market value reached $1004.27 million in 2022. By 2028, it will reach $1352.3 million, achieving a compound annual growth rate of 5.08 per cent for the forecast timeline, according to a research.

A graph showing the characteristics of lithium-titanate batteries. Source: Largepower.

The growth in energy storage technologies is one of the key core areas to promoting clean energy generation and enhancing the grid’s energy security and stability. Lithium titanate oxide helps bridge the gap between battery energy storage technology and the power grid.

The rise in battery demand drives the need for critical materials. In 2022, about 60 per cent of lithium, 30 per cent of cobalt, and 10 per cent of nickel were sourced for developing EV batteries. 

In 2017, the shares of these minerals were around 15 per cent, 10 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively. The mining and processing of these critical minerals have to increase rapidly to support the energy transition and to keep up with the drive for clean energy technologies.

Lowering the need for critical materials will be necessary for improving the supply chain’s sustainability, resilience and security. Better innovations such as advanced battery storage technologies necessitating low quantities of critical minerals, measures to aid the adoption of transport models with optimised battery size and the subsequent development of battery recycling can provide benefits.

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