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New material improves Li-ion battery safety

Posted: 18 Nov 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Li-ion battery  ITRI STOBA  battery safety 

Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has unveiled STOBA (self-terminated oligomers with hyper-branched architecture), which it claims to be the first material technology to enhance the safety of Li-ion batteries.

Li-ion batteries, the power source for many consumer electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, cameras, and hybrid and electric cars, are susceptible to overheating, which can cause fires and explosions.

In 2008, 310 crore Li-ion batteries were produced globally, a 10 per cent growth from 2007, which magnifies the environmental footprint and safety concerns Li-ion batteries present when used in consumer electronics and electric cars. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed that product recalls involving Li-ion batteries occur every year. In fact, in May of 2009 alone, 70,000 notebook computers were recalled by a major manufacturer, and in 2006, another major brand recalled over 40 lakh notebooks due to Li-ion battery malfunctions.

To meet the growing demand for safer lithium batteries, ITRI has developed STOBA. By integrating a nanograde polymer, which forms a protective film much like a nanograde fuse, into the Li-ion battery, a locking effect is generated when the battery encounters excessive heat, external impact or piercing and interrupts the electrical and chemical action, preventing explosions that threaten consumer safety.

STOBA has passed mandatory shorting and piercing experiments conducted in 2008 and 2009 by battery manufacturers in Japan and Taiwan. The intensive nail penetration and impact tests confirmed STOBA's effectiveness in preventing internal shorting and overheating in Li-ion batteries.

Besides its safety features, STOBA also extends the life of the Li-ion battery by about 20 per cent, or an additional two years, due to the nanograde STOBA film that stabilises the electrode material at high temperatures (55° Celsius).

"The creation of the STOBA material is a significant breakthrough in Li-ion battery technology. The safety of electronic products will no longer be a concern to consumers," said Dr. Alex Peng, senior research scientist and deputy general director at ITRI's Material and Chemical Research Laboratories (MCL). "ITRI will work with lithium battery manufacturers, and leading cell phone, laptop and electric vehicle makers to ensure wide adoption of this technology."

Led by Peng, R&D of STOBA began in 2004. After years of repeated experiments and adjustments, Peng and his team discovered the nano-grade STOBA material technology. STOBA's heat-resistant, fair bonding and flexible qualities allow Li-ion batteries to gain redundancy time and reach twelve sigma, which generates the locking mechanism when they short and generate unstable temperatures. ITRI has applied for 29 patents for the STOBA technology in five countries including the United States, Taiwan, Korea, China and Japan.

- Paul Buckley
Power Management DesignLine Europe

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