Lithium-ion Nanomaterial Batteries: Our new hope with a dose of caution

High-capacity lithium-ion batteries are one of the core technologies of near-term clean energy solutions. These batteries have the potential to be at the heart of energy storage for transportation, episodic alternative energy and smart-grid electricity management. Many of these batteries will contain nanoscale lithium particles and other supplemental materials that will equip the electrode coatings inside the batteries for fast-charging and high-enduring voltage production. There are both foreseen and unexplored environmental, health and safety risks associated with the manufacture, use, recycling, and disposal of nanoscale lithium-ion batteries. While lithium itself is not known as a threat to the environment, there have been few studies performed to date on the risks of nanoscale-lithium particles. Members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have warned that current battery recycling and disposal processes may not be designed to handle this new battery technology properly. In order to provide assurances about the properties of this new material and establish processes for its end-of-life care, focused research on the environmental, health and safety aspects of lithium nanoparticles needs to be a priority.

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