August 15, 2006 2:33 PM PDT

Can anything tame the battery flames?

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Circumstances have also changed to make the market potential more favorable for these nonlithium technologies. Late last year, for instance, the United Nations passed a resolution permitting passengers to carry methanol into checked luggage on airplanes. Regulatory bodies in different nations are expected to pass rules allowing passengers to carry methanol in carry-on bags in 2007.

Methanol is flammable, Cooper acknowledged, but methanol fuel cells don't provide the same explosive potential. The methanol is kept in an unpressurized container and it is stored away from the hot components in a computer.

Cooper also added that fuel cells will complement, but not replace, lithium ion batteries. Notebooks will have both: The lithium ion will kick in for tasks that require lots of energy, like graphic-intensive games. The fuel cell will run the computer during low-impact tasks like word processing. Still, a notebook rigged with a fuel cell will be able to be equipped with a much smaller lithium battery.

Lithium ion manufacturers have also known for some time that the opportunities for improving the performance of their products were limited.

"The theoretical maximum will be reached by 2006 for lithium ion chemistry," said Hammed Cadbury, product marketing manager for the energy component group at Sony in an interview in 2004.

Controlling lithium
Despite the explosive potential, lithium batteries are enjoying popularity in electric and hybrid cars. The Tesla Roadster, an all-electric sports car, runs on a battery containing 6,831 lithium ion cells, said CEO Martin Eberhard.

Safety precautions, however, are taken to the nth degree in the car. The lithium ion cells are isolated from each other, so that if one catches fire, the fire won't spread to other cells. In that event, sensors also detect the fire and shut down the battery and let the driver coast to a stop.

The battery is also cooled and kept at around 25 degrees Celsius. This doesn't prevent failure, but allows the lithium ion cells to live longer despite several recharges.

Eberhard further added that the company has placed stringent quality standards on its lithium ion cell suppliers. "We aren't buying the cheap ones," he said.

Valence Technology, meanwhile, has come out with a lithium battery for modifying hybrid cars that reduces the risk of failure. The company's U-Charge Power System contains a cathode material, the metallic pole inside a battery that attracts electrons, made of metal phosphate. Most lithium ion batteries sport a cathode based around cobalt.

Batteries with the metal phosphate can store only about 75 percent of the energy a traditional lithium ion battery can hold. However, the phosphate won't burn. In traditional lithium ion batteries, heat inside the battery can cause the cobalt oxide cathode to decompose.

While Valence has mostly sold to vehicle makers, Bogues earlier this year predicted that the safety issue could bring notebook makers to the company's door.

"At some point, some company will push for safer batteries," he said during an interview in June.

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9 comments

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Sorry about the triple post..it was not confirming.
Yet they posted.
Posted by pjdw (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't feel bad
It has happened to me a few times.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
I take this story was written w/o taking into account other news...
Methanol, I highly doubt that it would be allowed on airplanes.
Especially given that people won't even let you bring bottled water
and a newspaper on a flight to certain destinations. So how would
they get a flammable liquid able to be allowed in flights? It will get
to the point where the only thing you can bring on a flight, is the
clothes on your back, shoes on your feet and your skibbies.
Posted by MidniteRaider (94 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed, Do not do electronic work on planes
All jobs require thinking. Do the note taking
on planes and leave the computerized part for later. Better yet....REST so you can think better on the job when you get back to it. In
college I found that I learned much better if I did not study every day. When I began taking
Friday's off....the work grew easier. We humans must recharge the same as laptops.
Posted by pjdw (33 comments )
Link Flag
PDA's are next!
PDA's are next just like laptops if they explode or are Ion, They are no longer on planes!
Posted by kyle172 (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PDA battery
I bought a replacement PDA battery for my PDA about a month ago from <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.laptopsforless.com/pdahandheldbattery" target="_newWindow">http://www.laptopsforless.com/pdahandheldbattery</a> and it works great. Is there any reason to think that a replacement PDA battery would be any worse than the manufacturers replacement?
Posted by GreenApple123 (7 comments )
Link Flag
It could be Dell, not the battery
I bought a Dell computer in 2001. Before a month was up the hard drive failed. After a couple months the DVD drive went with a loud scream of my cd exploding while being read in the drive.
It took 10 days for Next Business Day repair to happen and it was only that fast because I got tired of waiting for service contract employees to come and decided to remove and install the "new" (package said refurbished) DVD drive myself.
I had so much down time with a Dell and tempermental conflicts with my programs I finally bought a different brand of desktop.
If a Dell desk top is so poorly built I must surp=mise the laptops follow suite. Especially since my Compac laptop has two lithium batteries that have never been a problem. After all, I am
bright enough to follow instructions and flip its little back legs up so air can circulater around it to cool it off.
Don't be so fast to point the finger at Sony and it's batteries. After all, the laptop must have a proper cooling mechanism.
Posted by pjdw (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It could be Dell, not the battery
I bought a Dell computer in 2001. Before a month was up the hard drive failed. After a couple months the DVD drive went with a loud scream of my cd exploding while being read in the drive.
It took 10 days for Next Business Day repair to happen and it was only that fast because I got tired of waiting for service contract employees to come and decided to remove and install the "new" (package said refurbished) DVD drive myself.
I had so much down time with a Dell and tempermental conflicts with my programs I finally bought a different brand of desktop.
If a Dell desk top is so poorly built I must surp=mise the laptops follow suite. Especially since my Compac laptop has two lithium batteries that have never been a problem. After all, I am
bright enough to follow instructions and flip its little back legs up so air can circulater around it to cool it off.
Don't be so fast to point the finger at Sony and it's batteries. After all, the laptop must have a proper cooling mechanism.
Posted by pjdw (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It Could Be the Dell, Not the Battery
I bought a Dell computer in 2001. Before a month was up the hard drive failed. After a couple months the DVD drive went with a loud scream of my cd exploding while being read in the drive.
It took 10 days for Next Business Day repair to happen and it was only that fast because I got tired of waiting for service contract employees to come and decided to remove and install the "new" (package said refurbished) DVD drive myself.
I had so much down time with a Dell and tempermental conflicts with my programs I finally bought a different brand of desktop.
If a Dell desk top is so poorly built I must surp=mise the laptops follow suite. Especially since my Compac laptop has two lithium batteries that have never been a problem. After all, I am
bright enough to follow instructions and flip its little back legs up so air can circulater around it to cool it off.
Don't be so fast to point the finger at Sony and it's batteries. After all, the laptop must have a proper cooling mechanism.
Posted by pjdw (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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