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Why your phone battery gets worse over time - George Zaidan

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Almost all batteries, even single-use batteries, are theoretically rechargeable. That’s because the metals and other chemicals are still there in the battery. So chemically speaking, a dead battery is actually not that different from a fresh one. Then why do batteries die in the first place? And what should you do with them once they’re spent? George Zaidan digs into the science of batteries.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

How Batteries Work

If you're curious about how batteries work -- how energy is stored, how and why they lose capacity, and a bit about their history -- you'll want to check out this Ted-Ed video for some basics. Or, if you want to geek out a little, read how an engineer at MIT explains batteries. Head here to get into the weeds on how batteries function. You may also want to explore how lithium-ion batteries work, specifically.

Battery Recycling

Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere. Demand for lithium-ion batteries has risen sharply in the past five years and is expected to grow. A shortage of lithium-ion batteries is looming in the U.S. They are also notoriously hard to recycle. Redwood Materials, a company founded by a former Tesla employee, is tackling some of the biggest problems for electric vehicles, including battery recycling, and envisioning a cleaner, greener, and more just battery-making process.

The Future of Batteries

From mobile phones to electric cars, batteries are the key to some of the most significant advances in the 21st century. But there's one problem: we're getting to the limits of what they can do. The next generation of batteries will play a vital role in enabling the green energy transition. To make decarbonization a reality, batteries need to get better and be recycled at much higher rates. Batteries need to be cheaper and less harmful to the environment, and the resources to make batteries need to be procured thoughtfully and humanely. To hear from an expert about the future of lithium batteries, problems, and innovations, head over to the Volts podcast as David Roberts interviews Chloe Holzinger. 

Lithium-ion Batteries

First, it's essential to understand why lithium-ion batteries are so important. Then, you might want to wrap your brain around how many different types of lithium batteries there are. The process of how lithium goes from the ground, into your cell phone or electric vehicle is lengthy and complicated. Find out more here. Finally, lithium batteries specialize in short-term energy storage -- anywhere between a few seconds and four hours. We will need other forms of medium and long-term energy storage to decarbonize and electrify the grid.

Lithium Batteries and Environmental Justice

Batteries and energy storage are vital to a clean transition and to slowing and eventually stopping climate change. Yet the mining of rare metals -- like lithium -- to make these batteries have environmentalists torn. Some mines will destroy pristine landscapes, disrupt animal habitats and ecosystems, and some are planned to be near indigenous lands. However, there are responsible ways to mine lithium and other rare metals. We just need to do it.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Script Writer George Zaidan
  • Director Luísa Holanda
  • Narrator George Zaidan
  • Storyboard Artist Luísa Holanda
  • Animator Murilo Jardim
  • Compositor Gabriel Maia
  • Art Director Luísa Holanda
  • Music Gabriel Maia
  • Sound Designer Gabriel Maia
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Produced by Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer George Zaidan
  • Science Consultant Sunil Mair

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