Lithium-Ion Batteries in a World Stuck on Gas

Lithium-ion batteries have been around for a few years, put into laptop computers and now into automobiles, and have a range of uses that can mean a lot of change to a great deal of different technology industries across the world.

Lithium-ion batteries are useful because they are more powerful than traditional batteries, able to store more energy and able to do it more efficiently. That means they are capable of storing energy in less space, which is important in today’s world of small gadgets and power-efficient cars.

Although the technology is great, there are a number of drawbacks or at least concerns that many people have about lithium-ion or Li-ion batteries. Back in the mid-2000s, they were put in laptops and caused many of them to burst into flames, which can be a very traumatic event for someone who was simply typing an email or a research paper. To say that this caused come concerned and raised a few eyebrows would be a way of putting it kindly.

So why do Li-ion batteries still strike so many people as the future of electric batteries? Quite simply, because they are the best we have got out on the market today. And that means these batteries will have a number of wide-reaching implications on a variety of industries, from computers to cars, and that these implications will have an even further influence on public policy and culture in the future. That is why taking some time to examine what makes the Li-ion battery tick is such an important way to start understanding the technology that is coming our way.

Overcoming the Concerns of Li-ion Technology With More Technology

Before we talk about how great Li-ion battery technology can be, it’s important to stay grounded and talk about why the technology isn’t so great in every regard. Put quite simply, the Li-ion battery is a technology with a lot of potential but also a lot of drawbacks. Much of the work in making sure Li-ion batteries actually become more popular is to minimize these drawbacks, basically making them better by working on their weaknesses.

And what are these weaknesses? Well, the first and perhaps foremost is that of safety: the Li-ion battery is simply not the safest battery. Although it has made major strides from its early days, these batteries have had a history of safety problems including flammability, which is a major safety concern indeed. Also considering the possibility of a Li-ion battery exploding; in its early days in computers, 6 million computers were recalled by Sony because of this exact problem.

The issue with these explosions is that they happen precisely due to the way Li-ion technology works: that is, the perforated thin layer between the positive and negative sides of the battery which allows ions to pass through and thus generates the electric current necessary for power, can also have bits of metal get stuck in it, causing one side to overheat and therefore explode. Minimizing the safety concerns here will mean finding ways to circumvent this problem without shutting down the overall viability of the technology in the first place.

Anticipating this quandary, car makers can now insert cooling systems into the Li-ion batteries of an automobile to make sure that overheating and thus explosion does not occur. Regulating the speed of the ion flow is another way to ensure that nothing builds up too quickly for the cooling system to have no effect on the safety of these batteries.

Much of the time and research spent into Li-ion batteries is necessarily about improving the safety of these batteries: in other words, the battery technology already exists, but making the overall battery unit more safe does require time, effort, and certainly money.

Materials like nanophosphate can help act as an electrolyte for these car batteries to ensure that the technology is much safer than the original Li-ion batteries. Considering how technology is being developed around the concept of Li-ion batteries, it is entirely possible that the presence of Li-ion batteries actually inspires progress in different fields from battery usage alone.

Li-ion dominates consumer portable applications but material barriers prevent Li-ion enabling industrial applications. New materials are essential to bring the benefits of Li-ion to industrial and automotive applications.

Read more about Li-ion batteries here.

What is your opinion? Are Lithium-Ion Batteries the best solution for the future? Feel free to start a discussion here!


Posted on March 17, 2011, in Electric / Electronic. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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