intercalation cell

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A type of secondary cell in which layered electrodes, usually made of metal oxides or graphite, store positive ions between the crystal layers of an electrode. In one type, lithium ions form an intercalation compound with a graphite electrode when the cell is charged. During discharge, the ions move through an electrolyte to the other electrode, made of manganese oxide, where they are more tightly bound. When the cell is being charged, the ions move back to their positions in the graphite. This backwards and forwards motion of the ions has led to the name rocking-chair cell for this type of system. Such cells have the advantage that only minor physical changes occur to the electrodes during the charging and discharging processes and the electrolyte is not decomposed but simply serves as a conductor of ions. Consequently, such cells can be recharged many more times than, say, a lead-acid accumulator, which eventually suffers from degeneration of the electrodes. Lithium cells, based on this principle, have been used in portable electronic equipment, such as camcorders. They have also been considered for use in electric vehicles.

Subjects: Chemistry — Physics.

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