Cobalt plays an important role in the production of batteries; unfortunately, production speed and costs are not always able to match demand.
Companies like Benchmark Minerals will be holding battery conferences in 2018. These events will hold discussions on, among other things, the supply and demand of battery raw materials and how batteries operate depending on the elements they contain.
Cobalt is an element that serves as a commonly used and good cathode for lithium ion batteries.
Role of Cobalt in How Batteries Work
When batteries are charged, lithium ions go from the positive cathode to the negative anode. When batteries are discharged, lithium ions travel the opposite way. They go from anode to cathode, giving up electrons and feeding power to an attached external electronic device before returning to the cathode.
An example of a cathode material is lithium-cobalt-oxide. Cobalt is effective here as it is a metal with the ability to maintain a neutral charge.
Demand for Cobalt
The use of lithium batteries continues to rise as there is an increasing demand for energy storage systems. In this way, the use and demand for cobalt also grow.
Cobalt demand is roughly twice the current existing supply. Worldwide supply of cobalt will continue to be strained and critical unless current production levels are dramatically increased.
Even small amounts of cobalt need to be present in a battery material to improve performance and the rate at which power is delivered to an external device.
Alternatives to Battery Production
The current commodity prices of elements list manganese and nickel as cheaper alternatives to cobalt. Use of these elements is often limited because they are unable to control oxygen reduction activity during the charging processes.
Replacing cobalt with nickel would be a much cheaper option for battery production. However, this combination would serve as a fire hazard because it would release large amounts of oxygen following the movement of lithium ions.
Manganese, on the other hand, has already been used as a stabilizing metal for traditional lithium ion batteries.
Research continues and further attempts are being made to discover a way for manganese to serve as a replacement to cobalt in battery production without risking any instability. If alternatives to cobalt can be found, overall costs may decrease.