Improved Li-Ion Battery Tech in the Works

Altair Nanotechnologies, has announced that it has achieved a breakthrough in Lithium Ion battery electrode materials. These new materials allow rechargeable batteries to be manufactured that have three times the power of existing Lithium Ion batteries at the same price and with recharge times measured in a few minutes rather than hours.

The technical achievements are being praised by the battery community as truly remarkable and will likely enable a new generation of rechargeable battery to be produced. Altair has confidentiality agreements in place with some of the world's leading battery development companies to evaluate and commercialize these battery electrode materials.

Altair's research and development efforts were allowed two new patents (announced on January 7th and 14th, 2005) and a National Science Foundation grant was successfully completed in January 2005 by Altair. Two eminent experts in battery technology, Dr. K. M. Abraham and Dr. Vassilis G. Keramidas, have expressed strong support for Altair's work.

"The nanomaterials Altair is developing are the next generation of electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries and Altair's research and product development is laying the ground work for a new generation of ultra high power lithium ion batteries." commented Dr. K. M. Abraham. "A key requirement to the above applications is the ability to recharge the battery very quickly, for example in a few minutes. Current Li Ion batteries are incapable of such quick charge times because of the chemistry of the anode materials. Altair has found a solution to this with their nano-sized lithium titanium oxide."

"Altair's nanomaterials, which have a virtually zero strain crystal lattice, eliminate the main cause for battery electrode material fatigue, which limits rechargeable battery life, increasing the number of recharge and discharge cycles from a few hundred to many thousand cycles," said Dr. Vassilis G. Keramidas. "I find Altair's development strategy and proposed research direction sound and a necessary step in establishing the Li-Ion electrochemistry as a viable contender for large battery applications."

"Our research in battery electrode materials is a further indication of how Altair's scientists are able to apply their nanomaterials science knowledge to solving real world needs," commented Altair CEO Dr. Alan J. Gotcher. "Many of the technology and product development initiatives that we have been working on for the last few years are now coming to the commercialization stage. Each step is another validation of our business strategy and product technology platform. Altair's nanomaterial based, micro porous electrode technology has performance and stability advantages that appear to be unmatched when compared to the best commercialized technology in the market today."

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RhinoSteve @ 3/9/2005 2:56:54 PM # Q
Energy density technologies (e.g. electrical batteries and generators) are one of the most eye'd technologes by the DOD. When you see a new battery "breakthrough" it is pretty much something was declassified from a goverment lab.

The guy that invented it ten years ago is now free to lead a group of graduate students to "discover" it. While this is good still good for industry, please define the source of the technology better.
LiveFaith @ 3/9/2005 8:53:14 PM # Q
I want one now to replace my T3 battery. I bet I could get 3 hours with one of these. :-)

With > density come greater weight. Surely it's not 3x in weight, but I wonder what the tradeoff is there?

Pat Horne;

Energy Density
potter @ 3/10/2005 9:49:50 AM # Q
The phrase "Energy Density" refers to Energy per Unit Volume, as opposed to the normal Density that refers to Mass per Unit Volume.

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ThePolack @ 3/9/2005 9:02:46 PM # Q
Current Lithium Ion cells need to be "recalibrated" about once a month (really, it's the embedded circuits in the batteries, not the cells themselves). This process amounts to fully charging, fully discharging and fully charging again the batter about once a month.

This reminds us a lot of the "conditioning" that was required with various nickel chemistries and avoiding this kind of crap is exactly why Lithium Ion was developed in the first place.

So do these new cells address this problem? I like higher capacities and shorter recharge times as much as anyone else, but I'd really really like a battery that I don't have to maintain at all beyond charging it occasionally.

jamesgood72 @ 3/10/2005 8:02:34 AM # Q
Fully discharging a Li-Poly cell will seriously degrade it's life span. Palm recommend a single charge/discharge cycle when their products are new to calibrate, and that's it. I would be very wary about doing this monthly.

Where did you get this information from, Polack?


Energy Density
potter @ 3/10/2005 9:46:15 AM # Q
The phrase "Energy Density" refers to Energy per Unit Volume, as opposed to the normal Density that refers to Mass per Unit Volume.

Energy Density
potter @ 3/10/2005 9:50:28 AM # Q
Oops, wrong thread. Sorry.

ThePolack @ 3/11/2005 9:23:57 PM # Q

Fully discharging your lithium ion batteries frequently will seriously degrade their lifespan, especially if you fully discharge them in consecutive cycles. Fully discharing them occasionally won't really hurt them (much).

If you have a battery with a built-in charge monitor (most LiIon cells on the market really since the charging circuitry is always integrated in the cell itself and not the device that uses it), then the display of remaining power gets a little wonky over time. If you don't reset it once in a while, it starts to think that it's fully charged before it really is or starts to think that it's discharged further than it really is, both conditions effectively reduce how long your battery holds a charge (not really, but it appears that you're getting less juice the longer the problem persists, the cells are actually fine, it's just the control circuit that's confused).

There are several battery sites like the one above that go into detail about how to best prolong a lithium based battery (not just the cell, but the whole package). The problem is that, yes, this does slightly damage the cell when you discharge it once a month. But the damage from discharging it once a month is pretty minimal and won't amount to any noticable change in battery performance while not "recalibrating" the circuit will noticable reduce total operating time (this is especially apparent with iPods, and laptops. I've noticed it in some phones that I've owned but never in a Palm thankfully, since there really is no data-safe way to fully discharge a Palm).

This is something that most device and battery manufacturers try to avoid talking about, but dig around and you'll find battery maintenance documents hidden in the tech support sites of Apple, Dell, Nokia and a bunch of others (mostly to serve as disclaimers the next time some guy in NY wants to start publicly criticizing the iPod for having crappy batteries (which it doesn't, he just didn't know how to maintain them)).

ThePolack @ 3/11/2005 9:39:07 PM # Q
Just a snippet from the above link:

"Although lithium-ion is memory-free in terms of performance deterioration, batteries with fuel gauges exhibit what engineers refer to as "digital memory". Here is the reason: Short discharges with subsequent recharges do not provide the periodic calibration needed to synchronize the fuel gauge with the battery's state-of-charge. A deliberate full discharge and recharge every 30 charges corrects this problem. Letting the battery run down to the cut-off point in the equipment will do this. If ignored, the fuel gauge will become increasingly less accurate. (Read more in 'Choosing the right battery for portable computing', Part Two.) "


In the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "I drank what?"

jamesgood72 @ 3/14/2005 1:19:12 PM # Q
Thanks Polack. I stand corrected!


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OLED + Improved Li-Ion Battery + NVFS = Long battery life!

Wolfgard @ 3/9/2005 10:45:21 PM # Q
I can't wait for the day this technology is paired with OLED screens and NVFS memory. Hopefully the next gen PDAs can last for weeks on a single charge.

pen & paper -> m515 -> Zire72 -> TH55 & Handera 330

RE: OLED + Improved Li-Ion Battery + NVFS = Long battery li
bdholmes @ 3/10/2005 7:17:17 AM # Q
"Hopefully the next gen PDAs can last for weeks on a single charge."

Palm have been making PDAs that last for weeks since 1996. It's only in the last few years that they decided that people didn't want devices with decent battery life any more. I think I'll skip a gen.

Palm Vx

RE: OLED + Improved Li-Ion Battery + NVFS = Long battery life!
hkklife @ 3/10/2005 9:45:18 AM # Q
Past few years? Since 2001 or 2002?

Keep in mind the beloved Vx was sold until late '01 or early '02, then the m125 was launched shortly thereafter with good battery life. A variety of Zires & Zire 21s have also been sold in the past three years and those things last forever. The new Zire 31 still achieves good battery life for a color unit. Granted, it cannot go for weeks on end but it can get through a work week of moderate usage with far more capabilities than any mono Palm device ever. Heck, even the T|C lasts a decent time if you keep the wi-fi off and screen brightness cranked down. Underclock it if you don't need the full 400mhz.

I do agree that battery life needs to be drastically improved but there are still certain POS devices out there that don't need to be tethered to a charger all day long. It's just a matter of trading off power for convenience and trying to maximize your unit's battery life (underclocking etc).

I wish P1 could somehow follow the cell phone manufacturers and introduce removable batteries across the upper end of the line. Then have a slimline & a fatter high-capacity battery available--remember the old Startac batteries? Classic!

RE: OLED + Improved Li-Ion Battery + NVFS = Long battery li
Masamune @ 3/10/2005 2:05:32 PM # Q
It's important to remember that in the last few years, we have seen the introduction of bluetooth, wifi, colour screens, vibration function and christ know what else. This new technology does come at a price and it will take battery technology a while to catch up.

RE: OLED + Improved Li-Ion Battery + NVFS = Long battery life!
hkklife @ 3/10/2005 3:55:29 PM # Q
It's amazing what vibration does to one's battery life. I left my T3 (fully charged() on my desk and it rattled away all day with reminders that I ignored. I was astonished to see how far the battery had dropped after the course of the day.

Other than BT & playing mp3s over the speaker, I cannot think of a way to zap the battery so quickly. The thing is, you are always aware of BT & audio output draining the battery. It's easy to overlook or forget about the vibrating alarm. I still appreciate the convenience of it, however.

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Power, not Capacity

jackpipe @ 3/10/2005 12:26:14 AM # Q
I think this announceement is about the power of batteries, not capacity. ie the electrodes are nano-particles, thus allowing much greater surface area for reaction, which allows greater current for discharge, and charge. It doesn't increase battery capacity, and so this is all about being able to us LiIon batteries in power applications such as electric bikes, cars etc.
Or am I wrong?

RE: Power, not Capacity
Kojak71 @ 3/10/2005 6:08:03 AM # Q
RE: Power, not Capacity
potter @ 3/10/2005 11:17:08 AM # Q
Hmm, jackpipe, you may be right. The quote from the article says "These new materials allow rechargeable batteries to be manufactured that have three times the power of existing Lithium Ion batteries..." This technology may increase the power of the LiIon batteries, increasing the voltage and/or current output of the battery, but yet do nothing to the capacity of the battery. Say at the same voltage, the new battery can put out three times the current, thus three times the power (P=IV), but can only do so for one-third the time.

Now this statement was not a direct quote from one of the high egg-heads mentioned further down in the article, those who would know the difference between power, energy, work, charge, voltage, current, amperes, etc. A PR writer, who may have made a subtle mistake, may be written it.

Time to search the IEEE pages to see what they say about this.

RE: Power, not Capacity
potter @ 3/10/2005 11:57:26 AM # Q
potter wrote @ 3/10/2005 11:17:08 AM
> Time to search the IEEE pages to see what they say about this.

Hmm, did not find anything.

RE: Power, not Capacity
Wollombi @ 3/10/2005 1:19:16 PM # Q
You still have to dissipate that power somehow.

If the powered circuit's dissipation is the same, but a more powerful battery is connected to it, I see two options here: it burns up the circuit, or it takes longer to discharge the battery.

I know that's a basic explanation, but am I missing anything here?


There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

RE: Power, not Capacity
potter @ 3/10/2005 2:12:55 PM # Q
Wollombi wrote @ 3/10/2005 1:19:16 PM

> If the powered circuit's dissipation is the same, but a more
> powerful battery is connected to it, I see two options here: it
> burns up the circuit, or it takes longer to discharge the
> battery.

Based off of my current understanding: If the powered circuit's dissipation is the same, it will draw the same amount of current and thus the same amount of power off of the battery. However, the battery's capacity has not changed, and thus it will take the same amount of time to discharge. However, it can charge much faster. Also, it may open up the possibility of other uses that draw more current. In the PDA world the only thing I can think of would be a camera flash (without the intermediate capacitor or with a faster charge time).

RE: Power, not Capacity
Wollombi @ 3/11/2005 11:45:29 AM # Q
Wouldn't the amount of current being drawn affect the rate of power dissipation? If the circuit draws the same current as before, but the battery has more power to dissipate, wouldn't it theoretically last longer on a charge?


There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

RE: Power, not Capacity
IanJD @ 3/11/2005 1:35:46 PM # Q
I interpret the original article to mean that there is no increase in the energy content of a battery of given physical dimensions, but there is an increase in the maximum current that can be used in discharging and recharging it.

Unfortunately the haphazard use of "power" obscures the issue somewhat, but this just looks like a larger diameter hose to allow you to empty or fill your bucket quicker, when you want to, but there's no change in how much water it contains.

RE: Power, not Capacity
potter @ 3/11/2005 1:51:49 PM # Q
We are having a terminology problem.

In the electrical sense, Power is a measure of how much energy a device can deliver (or consume) per unit time. A 60-Watt light bulb consumes energy at a rate of 60 Watts. To know how much energy it will take to light the bulb for a period of time, we have to multiply by time.

The point of this thread was that this new technology may be increasing the power of the batteries, thus the rate energy can be taken out of the batteries; but may not be affecting the capacity, the amount of energy that can be stored in them. However, this is all based off of one line in the release, which may have been written by a PR person and not one of the research Engineers. A PR person may not have known the subtle difference between power and energy that an Engineer would know.

RE: Power, not Capacity
potter @ 3/11/2005 2:12:26 PM # Q
I just reread the article. In the forth paragraph Dr. K. M. Abraham used the term power. I would assume he should know the subtle difference between power and energy.

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