What Minerals Are in Batteries?

By Alice Drinkworth

Batteries are made to store energy. There are several components that make a battery, but the core minerals are what make a battery work. These minerals make the chemistry that allows a battery to convert chemical energy into useful electrical energy. The most popular minerals used in battery production are cadmium, cobalt, lithium and nickel.

Cadmium

Cadmium is an element that is so soft, it can be cut with a butter knife. Its primary use is for making rechargeable batteries used in cell phones, power tools, cameras and laptop computers. China is the chief consumer of cadmium, mostly for the manufacturing of batteries. Cadmium is toxic to animals and a cause of concern in the environment. Because of the toxicity, some manufacturers are phasing out batteries made from cadmium in favor of the more environmentally friendly lithium-ion batteries.

Cobalt

Unlike cadmium, which is toxic, cobalt is vital for life. It is found in vitamin B12 and a supplement for farm animals where there isn't enough cobalt in the soil. Cobalt is also used in making rechargeable batteries. Ancient civilizations used cobalt to make beautiful blue tinged glass, pottery or tiles. Alloyed with other metals, cobalt creates a strong magnet, which can be used in the production of jet engines. The problem with cobalt is supply can be limited and prices can be high.

Lithium

Lithium batteries are environmentally friendly and useful in the batteries of hybrid cars because lithium batteries are lightweight and have a low toxicity. Lithium is the lightest metal. In addition to batteries, it is used for ceramics and glass, lubricating grease, pharmaceuticals, air conditioning and chemical processing. The major world producers of lithium are Chile and Argentina. The United States is the leading consumer of lithium.

Nickel

Nickel is usually combined with cadmium to make rechargeable batteries for cell phones, power tools and other electronic devices. Nickel is a catalyst when combined with other chemicals, making it useful for batteries and for a colorant. Nickel is sometimes added to glass to give it a green color. Nickel is also used as a coating to slow corrosion to other metals. The United States nickel coin contains 25 percent nickel (the other 75 percent is made of copper).