Sony cells found to be culprit for Acer laptop battery recall

The Sony laptop battery fiasco of 2006 is stepping into 2007, as Acer has announced a recall of certain notebook computer lithium-ion batteries containing Sony-made cells. About 27,000 cells are affected, and Acer is recommending that applicable consumers should only use the notebook computer using AC power until a replacement battery pack is received.

Laptops containing the affected batteries are in the TravelMate and Aspire series with model numbers starting with 242, 320, 321, 330, 422, 467, 561, C20, 556, 560, 567, 930, 941 and 980. These laptops were sold in the U.S. and Canada between May 2004 and November 2006. A special Web site has been set up for owners of Acer laptops to compare their serial numbers with those in the affected range.

Over 10 million lithium ion laptop batteries have been recalled worldwide since last year. A long list of computer manufacturers has felt the effects of the defective batteries, including Sony, Dell, Apple, Lenovo and Toshiba.

In the interest and concern of consumers, the IEEE announced last November that it will revise its laptop battery standards to improve overall performance while make systems more reliable. Meanwhile, battery engineers are hard at work to develop new, safer battery technologies. Panasonic is now producing laptops with an improved lithium ion battery technology that safeguards against overheating.

“When any supplier has a problem, it creates concern for the technology itself. The challenge that we must meet is to reassure the public that Lithium-ion batteries are safe,” said Michael Buckner, senior manager for Panasonic's Energy Solutions Lab, in an interview with DailyTech. “Safety has always been the number one priority at Panasonic. The incidents last year just reconfirmed that we need to maintain safety first in our designs.”

Sony may be looking to an alternate form of lithium-based battery technology, called lithium polymer, which it claims to be safer and more powerful than lithium ion. “There is not too much more power we want to cram into lithium ion,” said Sony Electronics president Stan Glasgow, adding that he believes that the next big battery technology will be lithium polymer-based.

While nearly all notebook computers on the market today use lithium, Apple started shipping lithium polymer batteries with several of its MacBooks as of late October. Lithium polymer batteries are already being widely used today in some newer models of PDAs and cell phones.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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