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New Li-Ion tech drops fire risk

New Li-Ion tech drops fire risk

Work carried out by a team of researchers could reduce the risk of lithium battery fires in future devices.

The days of spontaneous laptop combustion could be behind us if a new technology for water-based batteries takes off.

As reported over on Ars Technica, scientists have developed a lithium-ion battery which includes added water - forming what's known as a "aqueous lithium ion battery" - without harming the performance.

Although the technology has been around for a while, manufacturers have shied away from aqueous lithium ion systems owing to their extremely short lifespan: while significantly less toxic and infinitely less flammable than the electrolytes used in traditional batteries, the aqueous variants would often drop to 50 percent capacity after a mere 100 charges.

However, the research team - which has published its findings in Nature Chemistry - wasn't so quick to discount the technology, and has developed a method of creating aqueous lithium ion batteries capable of holding 90 percent of their design charge after a thousand cycles - a figure far more in keeping with their use in portable devices such as smartphones and laptops.

Sadly, the groups work is still very much in the prototype stage: although the lifespan of the battery they created was up to scratch, the overall capacity was sub-par - offering just ten minutes of juice before petering out.

However, with consumers waking up to just how eco-unfriendly the chemicals in your average battery really are, the team's work could end up in a battery near you in the next few years - providing, that is, that they are able to successfully scale the technology to the capacities required for active use.

Do you applaud anything which makes it less likely that your laptop will explode, or should the researchers be concentrating on increasing overall capacity rather than reducing an already very low fire risk? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

7 Comments

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TWeaK 12th August 2010, 11:19 Quote
Sounds good, but one of the big problems with batteries is weight (or at least mass per unit charge capacity). This tech will just add weight at the end of the day, which might be worse for the more portable devices such as smart phones. When was the last time one of those caught fire anyway?
Gareth Halfacree 12th August 2010, 12:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TWeaK
When was the last time one of those caught fire anyway?
If you put iPods into the same category, pretty recently: iPod Nano Buyers Get Burned, Literally - InformationWeek.
l3v1ck 12th August 2010, 12:08 Quote
If they can get 90% after 1000 charges then it may well be viable.
Question, would leaving the laptop plugged in most of the time affect the way these new batteries behave?
Enak 12th August 2010, 12:35 Quote
Being a chemical fire Lithium batteries burn under water... The real point to these batteries is that they are less harmful to the environment. Most modern lithium batteries are unlikely to go up in flames anyway but when you concentrate that much energy in such a small space their is always the risk of fire.
sear 12th August 2010, 14:19 Quote
I like how in the world of business, it's better to set a few people on fire than it is to fall behind the performance curve. Good stuff.
TWeaK 12th August 2010, 17:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sear
I like how in the world of business, it's better to set a few people on fire than it is to fall behind the performance curve. Good stuff.

Actually I think it's more of a case of cutting corners to save costs enough to *just* avoid setting people on fire. Obviously a fair few companies just go all out - maybe their CEOs are pyromaniacs? I'm looking at you Jobbs.
ZERO <ibis> 12th August 2010, 20:27 Quote
Lets just keep spending money on things that are less efficient so that we feel warm and fuzzy inside and then wonder why our GDP is tanking...
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