Jelly could be the answer to the problem of cheaper
They've come up with a type of polymer gel that could replace the liquid electrolytes used in rechargeable lithium cells. And of course, because it's jelly-like, it can be moulded into all shapes and sizes to suit the device it's intended for. 'The polymer gel looks like a solid film, but it actually contains about 70 per cent liquid electrolyte,' says Professor Ian Ward, head honcho on the project. 'It's made using the same principles as making a jelly: you add lots of hot water to 'gelatine' - in this case a polymer and electrolyte mix - and as it cools it sets to form a solid but flexible mass.' The technology has already been licensed to an American company, Polystor Energy Corporation, which is conducting trials to get the jelly-cells ready for use in portable electronics. The benefits of the new tech are the usual good ones - safer, cheaper and lighter. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are currently the top choice for laptops, phones, cameras and other mobile devices, but they're not always the most reliable. Big tech firms like Dell and HP often have battery issues leading to big recall programmes, including the off-chance that they might explode or catch fire. With the jelly-cells, the lamination manufacturing process used to make them 'seals the electrodes together so that there is no excess flammable solvent and liquid electrolyte' - so much less chance of fire or explosion then. That same process, where the jelly is sandwiched between an anode and a cathode at high speed, gets you a cell that's highly conductive but just nanometres thick. And, luckily for mass production, making the cells this way is 'fast, efficient and low cost'. Computer vendors are recalling about 35,000 Sony laptop battery packs in the US based on reports of the batteries overheating and catching fire. A US Consumer Product Safety Commission notice today announced the voluntary recall, warning that owners should stop using the product immediately. The recall concerns certain Sony brand lithium-ion batteries used in laptops made by Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, and Dell. HP notebooks affected are Pavilion, Compaq Presario, and HP Compaq notebooks sold from December 2004 though June 2006. Toshiba models are Satellite and Tecra notebooks sold from April 2005 to October 2005. Dell models are Latitude and Inspiron notebooks sold between November 2004 and November 2005. A full list of the specific models is available here. The CPSC reckons about 35,000 units have been sold in the US, with an additional 65,000 batteries worldwide. The commission said there have been 19 reports of the batteries overheating, including 17 reports of the units catching fire. Ten occurrences resulted in minor property damages and two consumers experienced minor burns. Sony blames the defect on adjustments on its manufacturing line from October 2004 to June 2005, which may have affected the batteries' ability not to erupt into flames. CPSC said users should remove the battery from their laptop and contact the manufacturer to request a replacement.