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The First Material Technology to Enhance the Safety of Lithium-Ion Batteries

ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute), Taiwan's largest and one of the world's leading high-tech research and development institutions, introduces STOBA (self-terminated oligomers with hyper-branched architecture), the first material technology to enhance the safety of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. This breakthrough in Li-ion battery safety will receive a "2009 R+D 100 Award in Energy Devices" this week.

Li-ion batteries, the power source for many consumer electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops, MP3 players, cameras, and hybrid and electric cars, are often the most unstable electronic component, as they are susceptible to overheating, which can cause fires and explosions.

In 2008, 3.1 billion Li-ion batteries were produced globally, a 10-percent growth from 2007 -- which magnifies the environmental footprint and safety concerns Li-ion batteries present when used in consumer electronics and electric cars. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission confirmed that product recalls involving Li-ion batteries occur every year. In fact, in May of 2009 alone, 70,000 notebook computers were recalled by a major manufacturer, and in 2006, another major brand recalled over 4 million Notebooks due to Li-ion battery malfunctions.(1)

In the past, safety standards for Li-ion batteries could not be raised because there was no solution available. To meet the growing demand for safer lithium batteries, ITRI successfully developed STOBA, which has fundamentally resolved the safety issue. By integrating a nano-grade polymer, which forms a protective film much like a nano-grade fuse, into the Li-ion battery, a locking effect is generated when the battery encounters excessive heat, external impact or piercing and interrupts the electrical and chemical action, preventing explosions that threaten consumer safety.

STOBA has passed mandatory shorting and piercing experiments conducted in 2008 and 2009 by battery manufacturers in Japan and Taiwan. The intensive nail penetration and impact tests confirmed STOBA's effectiveness in preventing internal shorting and overheating in Li-ion batteries.

Besides its safety features, STOBA also extends the life of the Li-ion battery by about 20%, or an additional two years, due to the nano-grade STOBA film that stabilizes the electrode material at high temperatures (55 degrees Celsius).

"The creation of the STOBA material is a significant breakthrough in Li-ion battery technology. The safety of electronic products will no longer be a concern to consumers," said Dr. Alex Peng, senior research scientist and deputy general director at ITRI's Material and Chemical Research Laboratories (MCL). "ITRI will work with lithium battery manufacturers, and leading cell phone, laptop and electric vehicle makers to ensure wide adoption of this technology."

Led by Peng, R&D of STOBA began in 2004. After years of repeated experiments and adjustments, Peng and his team discovered the nano-grade STOBA material technology. Its heat-resistant, fair bonding and flexible qualities allow Li-ion batteries to gain important redundancy time and reach twelve sigma, which generates the locking mechanism when they short and generate unstable temperatures. ITRI has applied for 29 patents for the STOBA technology in five countries -- the United States, Taiwan, Korea, China and Japan.

ITRI, headquartered in Taiwan, has offices in the United States, Japan, Russia and Germany in an effort to extend its R&D scope and promote opportunities for international cooperation. In the U.S., it has long-term collaborative arrangements with MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University. Globally, it has 23 international cooperations with major companies such as IBM, HP, Microsoft, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, Kodak, Lucent and Motorola.

To date, ITRI holds over 9,863 patents and has assisted in the creation of over 151 start-ups and spin-offs. In 2009, the institute has received four prestigious international awards: The Wall Street Journal's 2009 Technology Innovation Award for its FleXpeaker technology, an R&D 100 Award for the High Safety STOBA Lithium Battery Material Technology, the iF Design Award from the International Forum Design in Germany for ITRA's Fluid Driven Lighting System, and the Red Dot Design Award by the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany, for its Flexio Radio Technology.

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