Berlin, April 13 : Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Wurzburg, Germany, have developed a novel lithium-ion battery that would prove to be more safer for cell phones and other electronic devices.
Lithium-ion batteries supply the power for cell phones and PDAs, and larger devices such as laptops, cordless screwdrivers and lawnmowers are becoming increasingly dependent on this power source.
The advantage of these power storage devices lies in their high energy density and voltage (up to four volts).
In terms of safety, however, they have one disadvantage - the organic electrolytes are inflammable and can easily catch fire. This has already resulted in several fires and subsequent recall campaigns.
Now, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have optimized the safety of these batteries.
"We have succeeded in replacing the inflammable organic electrolytes with a non-flammable polymer that retains its shape," said ISC team leader Dr. Kai-Christian Moller. "This considerably enhances the safety of lithium-ion batteries," he added.
"What's more, because it is a solid substance, the electrolyte cannot leak out of the battery," explained Moller.
The polymer used by the researchers is derived from the Ormocer group of substances - a compound with silicon-oxygen chains that form an inorganic structure to which organic side chains become attached.
A prototype of the new lithium-ion batteries already exists, and the researchers will be presenting it at the Hannover Messe exhibition in Germany.
However, experts estimate that for the battery to be available for usage in laptop computers, PDAs and cordless screwdrivers, three or five years would elapse.
The conductivity of the polymer needs further improvement to enable the battery to deliver or store as much power as possible in as short a time as possible.
Once this happens, though, it is quite realistic to expect this type of battery - in conjunction with a capacitor - to be able to compete with the lead batteries in cars.