Print 11 comment(s) - last by SAnderson.. on Nov 13 at 12:41 PM

Stoba turns from a porous material to a film at 130 degrees centigrade stopping overheating

Just about all of the gadgets that we take for granted each day from cameras to our notebooks and mobile phones use lithium-ion batteries. These batteries have been around for many years and for the most part are trouble free.

However, last year and in 2007 a number of fires and explosions caused  by overheating lithium-ion batteries resulted in some of the largest recalls in history. Companies including Sony and many other large computer manufacturers were forced to recall tens of thousands of lithium-ion batteries used in notebooks.

More recently, lithium-ion batteries in mobile phones like the popular iPhone from Apple have been allegedly overheating and exploding leading to claims of injuries to some users in Europe. Future batteries are looking to get away from Lithium-ion and move to other types of batteries like Zinc-air for several reasons. One key reason is that the Zinc-air battery promises to deliver much more runtime form a battery of roughly the same size as its lithium-ion counterpart.

However, batteries that are robust enough for use in the computer and mobile phone market using Zinc-air technology are still years away according to some researchers. Until then battery, manufacturers are looking for things that make lithium-ion batters last longer and have less chance to overheat and burn or explode.

Reuters reports that a new material being called Stoba has been invented by a team of researchers led by Alex Pang. Stoba is a material that sets between the positive and negative sides of a battery and can turn from a porous material into a film when temperatures inside the battery reach 130 degrees centigrade.

The fire hazard with Lithium-ion batteries happens when they battery develops an internal short that causes the battery to heat up to as much as 500 degrees centigrade leading to explosion or fire. The Stoba material would turn into a film at 130 degrees centigrade and stop the reaction.

Pang said, "We have introduced a totally new material to the battery." Anytime you add new or more material to the battery, it will typically increase the cost to produce the battery. Pang estimates that Stoba will add only 2% to 3% to the cost of battery manufacture. Pang plans to try to sell the tech to notebook and mobile phone makers. Batteries using the material are expected to ship in 2010.

Adding the material to lithium-ion batteries could help manufacturers ease the restriction recently put into place on transporting the batteries. Reuters reports that the U.S. DOT has recently issued a new hazardous material notice for lithium-ion batteries.

The government said, "Many persons who ship lithium batteries do not recognize the hazards... fires in aircraft can result in catastrophic events presenting unique challenges not encountered in other transport modes."

The fear of fires caused by overheating and exploding batteries on commercial flights has plagued the battery industry since the recalls of notebook batteries first started. Luckily, to date no serious battery related fires have occurred on aircraft and no severe injuries resulting from batteries fires or explosions have been reported.

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By Freezebyte on 11/12/2009 11:49:07 AM , Rating: 2
As a RC hobbyist that drives brushless LiPo powered monster trucks and have seen the effects an over/undercharged or damaged Lipo can do, this is a very good thing.

RE: Interesting
By rstrohkirch on 11/12/2009 12:02:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not into R/C but I was under the impression that LiFePO4 was the ideal cell type to use in this application. I know for the hobby work I do it's a better investment.

RE: Interesting
By Freezebyte on 11/12/2009 12:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
LiFE does have its benefits however its major turnoff for most hardcore RC enthusiasts is the 3.3v per cell vs the 3.7v for Lipo. LiFE is also a bit heavier and currently there are few makers of LiFE batteries and MaxAmps is pure, utter overpriced crap.

RE: Interesting
By rstrohkirch on 11/12/2009 12:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
I build my own packs but wasn't sure if that was a common thing in that hobby or if there were odd space constraints. I know the cells are easy to obtain and the price is decent but I haven't actually looked at pre-made packs.

Doesn't the low cycle life on the 18650 or similar hurt your pocket book? =]

RE: Interesting
By rstrohkirch on 11/12/2009 12:25:54 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, wrote 18650 and meant LiPo

RE: Interesting
By lyeoh on 11/13/2009 8:42:08 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah. Common typo. The keys are like right next to each other. ;)

RE: Interesting
By Freezebyte on 11/12/2009 12:33:25 PM , Rating: 2
Depends if your paying for high performance racing Lipo's like SMC or going with more generic packs like Zippy or Turnigys.

In the end, I still prefer this alot more then my nitro truck.

RE: Interesting
By ATTFdiggs on 11/12/2009 1:36:44 PM , Rating: 2
I am an RC pilot and this is great news. However, I am curious the differences in Lithium Ion VS the Lithium Polymer. And if this can be implemented in both. As for the LIFEPO4 packs, they can be and are used in RC a lot, but many find the size, weight and lower voltage a big penalty. Depends on the model your a flying too. Pilots of smaller RC models are going to stay far away from the heavier larger packs, which makes Lipo packs so appealing. Pilots of larger power hungry models benefit greatly from some of the advantages of the LifePO packs. Charge time is much shorter and they are not as delicate when it comes to high current draw or physical abuse.

I wonder what happens in a crash situation. I can't see this being an advantage if the battery is physically damaged. Lot of pilots in California and areas susceptible to fires avoid Lipo packs for safety reasons.

RE: Interesting
By ATTFdiggs on 11/12/2009 1:44:38 PM , Rating: 2
I failed to mention the recent restrictions on shipping these packs by air as a result of fires in cargo planes. I am sure these restrictions will increase R&D in this area.

RE: Interesting
By Freezebyte on 11/12/2009 3:14:03 PM , Rating: 2
As a one time owner of a Blade mSR, I got sick of constantly crashing and having to baby your helicopter after a crash. I couldn't imagine at Blade 400 let alone a nitro T-rex. No thanks, i'll stick to driving on the ground.

Shipping Lithium
By SAnderson on 11/13/2009 12:41:55 PM , Rating: 2
The government said, "Many persons who ship lithium batteries do not recognize the hazards... fires in aircraft can result in catastrophic events presenting unique challenges not encountered in other transport modes."

How do you get to ship lithium and not know it. We recently moved some machinery and we had to know how many grams of lithium were in the several AA batteries before it could be shipped across the country.

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