Solid-lithium core laptop batteries: less risk, more promise

Solid-lithium core laptop batteries: less risk, more promise


It’s tough to avoid laptop battery news these days. They smoke, they catch on fire, they explode. Giants of the industry like Dell, Apple and Matsushita (Panasonic) are recalling them in droves.

The problem in all of this is the lithium-ion technology used to make these batteries. They have short lifespans. They have ingredients that are potentially hazardous or even volatile, especially when a large amount of heat is involved.

What’s a notebook owner to do? More to the point, what’s a battery manufacturer to do?

At least one company is poised to take advantage of this situation. Infinite Power Solutions, of Golden, Colorado, has developed thin-film batteries that boast a solid lithium core, not a liquid one like the exploding ones have. No liquid in the core means a huge drop in fire risk. In addition, the company says, these batteries suffer no measurable power dropoff and can be recharged thousands of times before replacement is necessary.

The company has prototypes that it says have been charged and discharged more than 10,000 times. The company has received a significant investment and plans to mass-produce its batteries starting next year.

Don’t start jumping up and down just yet, however. The lithium-ion batteries that are so popular today are rather firmly entrenched in the PC and mobile phone markets. So much of current technology has been engineered to work within the lithium-ion framework.

Emerging technologies are better targets for the solid-lithium core batteries that Infinite Power wants to mass produce. We have to remember that exploding batteries make the news, but they also make up only a small percentage of the overall battery population. The problem will soon enough be fixed and the “flaming laptop” stories will disappear from public debate.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to have a solid-to-the-core backup plan …