Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Lithium/Cobalt mining, Energy storage technology, Prof Peter Bruce, Oxford ..

Lithium-ion batteries inside our mobile phones..
Moore's Law unfortunately has not been found to be applicable to energy storage as it has done to the number of transistors that could be accommodated on a silicon chip..

The Lithium-Cobalt oxide which forms the anode in Lithium ion batteries that power most of our mobile phones, laptops and electric cars has two main components, Lithium and Cobalt. 80% of Lithium in the world is mined from the salt farms of Bolivia and Chile in South America, while 60% of the Cobalt in the world is mined from the Congo Republic in Central-South Africa.

Lithium-ion batteries inside our laptops
The difficulty in  gaining access to new natural resources of these elements is making researchers think of recovering Lithium and Cobalt from existing used and disposed batteries or find newer materials that can replace the Lithium-Cobalt oxide anode in these batteries. (click here for a skynews video on the cobalt mining industry in Congo, Africa which uses child labour excessively..)

Click here for an absorbing Washington Post article which exposes the high human toll in mining for Cobalt in Congo, Africa to sustain the fast growing mobile phones market in the Asian and  western world.

Cobalt mine in Congo, courtesy Washington Post
The unregulated hand mining where almost 100,000 people are employed to dig for Cobalt hundreds of feet below the surface is dangerous for the community and has resulted in gangs and mafia controlling the growing illegal mining and transport of Cobalt from Congo to the rest of the world.

Going to the technology aspect of this technology, the highly cited Prof Peter Bruce from Dept of Materials, Uty of Oxford is a global expert in battery technology and is talking on the strengths and limitations of Lithium ion batteries. 

Click here for a youtube video where Prof. Peter Bruce talks on the potential and limitations of Lithium ion batteries ..

Hope this talk will be a mind opener for people who are unaware of the challenges of the battery future of the world, opened by the world of miniature electronics led by the mobile phones technology.

If you are reading this article from a laptop (500g of Cobalt) or a mobile phone (10g of Cobalt) or an electric care (10 kgs of Cobalt), probably part of the Cobalt for that battery made it's way from Congo. Let us remember the silent suffering people of Congo who are compromising the quality of their life, longevity and health for our comfort and well-being.


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