Batteries/Lithium-ion Liquid/MIT Lithium-ion 051226
(January 2006) A New Power Plateau with lower cost and safer Lithium-ion Technology
compiled by Shirley Georgi
A123 Systems is commercializing a new Lithium-ion battery which they are proud to say has five times as much power and will last 10 times longer than other Lithium-ion batteries before recharge. A123’s first customer who will intorduce this battery for commercial purposes is Black & Decker; its DeWALT line of 36-Volt power tools ,with the A123 System battery, will be available in 2006. Contractors and carpenters will now have this high-power available in tools such as reciprocating and circular saws, impact wrenches, rotary hammers, jigsaws, flashlights and combo kits.
The company says it is using nanoscale science to create the next generation of Lithium-ion batteries. Specifically, A123 Systems is using a nanoscale electrode technology to achieve new heights in power, safety and estended life of the battery. Research was initiated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) .It was here at MIT where Dr. Yet-MIng Chiang, a materials scientist, developed an inexpensive lithium metal phosphate cathode for the battery which can be charged to 90% capacity in five minutes. The battery contains materials that are lower in cost than cobalt, which is currently the most popular material used in the cathode of Lithium-ion batteries. A 123 Systems’ M1 battery also has a higher level of thermal stability because of the doped nano-phosphate material ; cobalt has less thermal stability. (BD note: In an article, “More Powerful Batteries” by Kevin Bullis, Technology Review, 11/21/05, Dr. Chaing is said to decline to give details of A123’s current battery, including whether or not it uses iron.” However, Dr. Chaing in describing the cathode does say the cathode has “an inexpensive metal phosphate.”)
Looking closer at the technology
A123 Systems highlights three characteristics of its new nanoscale Lithium-ion battery - power, safety and extended life.
Power A123 systems states that its M1 battery has the highest power available in a mass produced Lithin-ion cell. (See chart, “Highest power avaiable in a mass produed in a Li Ion Cell” for details on continuous discharge at 100% DOD, long pulse and instant pulse.)
The M1 cells have an ability to charge to high capacity in 5 minutes or less. Typical Lithium-ion take approximately 90 minutes to charge to a similar level. This factor makes the battery an excellent candidate for power tools. Fast charge will also be a key enabled for practical electric drive vehicles. (See chart, “Charge Profile.”)
The packaging of the cells offers 4 times higher thermal conductivity than conventional Lithium-ion cylindrical cells. A123 Systems notes that coupled with the industry’s lowest impedance, the most efficient temperature management can be obtained of all Lithium-ion cells on the market.
Safety Because the batteries do not use oxide active materials, the cells are intrinsically safe and the risk of explosions and thermal runaway are eliminated. These active materials do not release oxygen and are not combustible if exposed to high temperature and or mechanical abuse. (See chart, “Accelerated Rate Calorimetry Comparison For M1vs. other Lithium-ion ion Chemistries.”)
Since conventional Lithium-ion cells have had a tendency to cause burning and /or explosions when overcharged, the M1 battery was designed with materials which eliminate this problem. This is accomplished by having all of the lithium fully extracted from the cathode when the battery is fully charged; thus, there is no lithium available to plate on the anode in an overcharged state. Typical conventional Lithium-ion cells extract only half of their lithium content when they reach their upper cut-off Voltage; this situation can lead to a safety problem.
A123 Systems also has a patent pending laser-welded multi-plate tubular construction that is vibration and abuse tolerant. This design has a hermetic seal with extremely low internal resistance.
Extended Life Record cycle life (as shown in the chart, “Excellent cycle life performance”) is credited to its chemical stability and a flat plateau at a lower oxidation potential than other Lithium-ion chemistries. At low rates, M1 cells can deliver several thousands of cycles at 100% DOD.
The battery also has a wide temperature range (-300C to 700C) at high-power pulses. (See chart, “Excellent Low Temperature Performance.”)
A123 Systems has made great gains in decreasing impedance growth, which has been one of the top failure modes of a high power battery and a major cause of power fade over the life of the battery. The company’s technology (patent pending) has created its battery in which the internal resistance (impedance) decreases with use. This is of great benefit for applications where long calendar life is critical, i.e., hybrid and elecric vehicles and medical devices.
Viewing the company
A123 Systems was founded in 2001 by Yet-Ming Chaing (currently a professor at MIT), Bart Riley (V.P. of R&D at A123 Systems) and Ric Fulop (V.P of Business Development and Marketing at A123 Systems). It is a privately held corporation whose major share holders include: Motorola, Qualcomm, Sequoia Capital, North Bridge Yankee Tek, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnPoint Technologies.