Review of developments in lithium secondary battery technology

Lithium batteries power an increasing range of devices sub sea in defense, industrial and scientific applications. Future installations will require batteries with greater energy and power capacity, of lower weight for use in underwater vehicles, at lower cost and with less risk of catastrophic failure.

With these goals in mind, developments in lithium-ion and lithium metal secondary cells are reviewed. For lithium-ion, the state of the art in commercial cells and areas of promising research for the cells’ components – namely the anode, cathode, electrolyte and separator – are assessed for future improvements in performance and safety.

New cathodes are most likely to provide incremental performance gains for lithium-ion cells. Heat-resisting or early-warning separators and novel electrolytes are set to reduce the likelihood and consequence of thermal runaway.

Recent advances with ion-conducting surface coatings for lithium metal anodes are leading to practical high-capacity lithium sulphur secondary cells with good, and improving, cycle life. Aspects of these cells’ operating principles, including the polysulphide shuttle and high flash point electrolytes, contribute to cell safety.

Further developments in acceptance testing and online monitoring of lithium batteries can also lead to greater safety.

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