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What Is a Lithium Anode?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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A lithium anode is part of a battery, is negatively charged, generates power and, in this case, is composed of lithium. Although the lithium anode is the primarily marketed aspect of batteries, the cathode that allows the electrical current to flow is made from different materials, and the cathode is important in determining the cell’s usefulness. Lithium batteries create a powerful voltage compared with other anodes, and they are useful in rechargeable batteries and batteries that need longevity, such as those used in pacemakers or wireless clocks. A special commercial version of lithium batteries, known as lithium-thionyl chloride cells, are especially good for low-current needs and typically are not sold to consumers.

Anodes are used in every battery and power cell, and they are where the power is produced. Lithium anode batteries used lithium to generate the power, and this type of cell creates higher voltages than other, similar cells. A lithium battery can make 1.5-3.7 volts, which is twice as much as other anodes, such as zinc-carbon and alkaline anodes.

Most rechargeable batteries use a lithium anode. This is because lithium is able to keep the energy longer than most other anodes and is able to last longer when used in electronics. The energy density of a lithium rechargeable cell is also among the highest, so the charge will not reduce even if the battery is not used for a long time.

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In terms of durability, a lithium anode ranks very highly. Even years after the anode is used, lithium will not degrade. This means that the battery will be able to maintain the same amount of power for a long time. Other anodes that have lower durability will maintain a reduced charge after extended use, meaning that these batteries will need to be replaced before lithium cells need to be replaced.

The cathode used in a lithium battery is another determining factor in how powerful the battery is. The three main cathodes are vanadium, thionyl chloride and sulfur dioixide. Vanadium has moderate storing stability and produces a high-energy output. Thionyl chloride, which usually is not sold to consumers, provides lower energy than other cathodes but is very stable when stored. Sulfur dioxide cathodes have moderate energy but have poor stability.

Lithium anodes are most commonly used in products and electronics for which longevity is necessary. A wireless clock is a good example, but better examples are implanted medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators, which need to work constantly without giving out. Lithium also is one of the lightest anodes used, so more material can be placed in the cell for a longer charge.

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