Lithium-ion or lithium polymer? What's the deal with lithium?

Lithium-ion batteries have been in use for some time in our personal electronics devices, most notably in laptop computers. The switch was made to lithium-ion from NiMh, or nickel metal hydride batteries because they are lighter, cheaper, and smaller than other kinds of batteries. They don't suffer from the 'memory' effect that gave nickel batteries a bad name, they contain relatively few toxic metals and are fairly simple to recycle. Nickel metal hydride and ni-cad or nickel cadmium batteries were the batteries of choice for high power applications before lithium-ion.
Recently, though, lithium-ion has had some controversy. It seems that in the quest for ever-higher capacities, some manufacturers (SONY is the big one) have pushed the technology too far. Some laptops were catching fire or exploding because the batteries got too hot.

Enter lithium polymer? Perhaps... Li-po or lithium polymer batteries have been in use under pretty demanding applications such as battle-bots and radio control airplanes for a little while, and some companies are investigating them for other uses. Treehugger investigated them as did CNet news. Time will tell if these new-tech batteries can challenge other newcomers in the field like A123Systems, Altair Nanotechnologies and Firefly Technologies offerings.


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