Li-imide: The next-generation smartphone or tablet battery?

Li-imide: The next-generation smartphone or tablet battery?

Summary: Lithium-Ion technology is old and outdated, doesn't like heat, and decomposes into corrosive hydrofluoric acid. After a few hundred recharges, the battery is dead. Enter Li-imide™ technology, which doesn't suffer from any of these limitations.

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As we break the bonds of our desktop computers and perform more work when on the move with tablets and smartphones, the demands that we place on the battery packs inside these devices has increased exponentially. But existing Lithium-ion technology has been pushed to its limits, so it's time for a replacement.

Enter Li-imide technology.

Li-imide technology is not new. It was first patented by science and innovation research firm DuPont in 2000. The technology was then acquired by Leyden Energy in 2007, and after four years of research and development, the first product based on Li-imide was launched.

Li-imide is interesting stuff, and brings to the table a number of benefits over existing Lithium-ion technology, which is reliant on a chemical with a tongue-twister of a name -- lithium hexafluorophosphate, or LiPF6 for short. Lithium-ion power packs don't like being exposed to heat, because this causes the LiPF6 to decompose into hydrofluoric acid, an extremely corrosive substance. This powerful acid instantly goes to work corroding the battery.

"Ever noticed how Li-ion cell datasheets always test cells at 20°C (68°F) to meet 100 percent performance marks?" questions Leyden Energy on its website: "Or how the number of charge cycles seems to fall off a cliff when temperatures are on the rise? In fact, such trade-offs between temperature and cycle life are a direct result of the most widely used electrolyte in Li-ion cells, lithium Hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6)".

Image source: Leyden Energy.

Lithium-ion power packs also don't like being subjected to regular recharging, and occasionally like to swell up inconveniently -- something that you don't want to happen when said battery pack is confined inside a smartphone, tablet or notebook.

Power packs that puff out can leak nasty chemicals, damage the device they are supposed to be powering, and even burst enthusiastically into flames. None of this is good for the device, or the unfortunate person who happens to be holding it, or carrying it in a pocket.

Li-imide technology suffers from none of these problems. There's no LiPF6 to decompose into hydrofluoric acid, so the batteries can survive up to three times more recharge cycles and can operate over much higher temperatures. Li-imide power packs also have a significantly higher energy density than Lithium-ion power packs, allowing devices to run longer on a single recharge.

Li-imide technology seems to be just what we smartphone and tablet toting individuals need to allow us to do more for longer.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones, Tablets

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23 comments
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  • It would have been nice

    To actually mention the chemicals used in a lithium imide battery. Li2NH
    baggins_z
    • Re: Li2NH

      You mean Li₂NH?
      ldo17
      • Re: lithium imide

        I don't think it's "lithium imide" but "a lithium imide". It's like saying ethanol is "alcohol", but it is also "an alcohol", whereas methanol is "an alcohol" but not simply referred to as "alcohol"--you can go to the patent and find out which imide it is. The patent shows some examples with details of the testing too, but of course there would have been further development since patent filing.
        sz89
  • Cool

    This stuff sounds great, but I would like to know how much longer runtimes we can expect with these batteries. the article mentions greater energy density, but doesn't go into much detail. Are we talking 10% are we talking double? I suspect something closer to the former than the later, as the story would probably be centered on runtime moreso than recharge cycles if that were the case. Still, it would be nice to know these details.
    dsf3g
  • Lots of missing info

    In addition to not mentioning the chemicals and potential additional run time, there was also no mention as to when, or if, these batteries will be available. While I love to hear about new technology, I also like to know if I am ever likely to see it put into commercial use.
    Heck if I Know
  • Lithium imide batteries?

    Ok, sounds wonder. No heat worries, more recharges, higher energy density (how much more), and HOW MUCH DO THEY COST? If you think we didn't notice that omission, you are WRONG.
    Fess up!
    rphunter42
    • cost

      I just bought one, actually it was considerably cheaper than what I would have to pay for an original part from the laptop maker. We'll see how it goes.
      sz89
  • Still waiting for super capacitors to eliminate batteries altogether and

    soon after take over the world. Super capacitors where are you? There's a whole world full of tablets and smartphones waiting to bow down to you.
    Johnny Vegas
    • don't get your hopes up on supercaps just yet

      Supercaps aren't exactly superior to batteries--they're just different. You might be able to charge them up faster, but they could discharge too easily as well. Plus I don't think the energy density is as high, nor can it hold the right voltage range for as long before you have to charge them up again.
      sz89
  • Toxicity?

    At least no fluorine to leak! The early chemists who worked with that element died from exposure to fumes, not knowing how dangerous it is. HF vapor is used to etch glass. I never heard about Li-ion batteries having any hazards other than fire and explosion direct damage, but maybe the release of HF without explosion has not been noticed; and with explosion, the extra hazard would be small by comparison. When can we buy plug-compatible replacements for existing Li-ion batteries?
    jallan32
    • Affiinity for calcium

      Hydroflouric acid also has a strong affinity for calcium. Unlike Hydrochloric, Nitric, and Sulfuric acids, you won't feel a burn on your skin, until it seeps in and starts attacking the bone. There is a special salve available for workers facing potential exposure that has a higher calcium content and draws the acid out. But even then, hydroflouric acid burns are not pretty sights.
      reziol
  • Heat issue gone & more dense than lithium ions - definitely welcome.

    Looking from a positive perspective, I believe this should be good. Price point will always be higher than the current technology as expected, something I hate to say as commercially whoever created this would want to monopolize and make a fortune out of it.
    I've gone through Nickel Cadmium, Nickel metal hydride, lithium ion, lithium polymer era and now lithium imide within the last 30 years, with each era seems to be getting better "in general". There are businessmen who already started to use lower grade lithium ions widely and selling them at really cheap price or claiming unbelievably high "mAH" in the same size for self-gain purpose, they knew what we consumers are looking for.
    Personally, the heat issue on lithium ions is something that worries me, I am particularly sensitive when charging my 13800 mAH portable charger as I'm not sure whether to trust the manufacturer's claim that their charger or batteries have built-in protective circuits especially those originated from certain countries. If lithium imide does not have heat issue and higher density, it'll even be better for hybrid and electric vehicles as they are currently using Nickel metal hydrides.
    I would accept this new tech with an opened mind as there were quite some cases of mobile phone battery explosions I have come across which reminded me to be more cautious when handling lithium ions. Heard USPS does not mail lithium ions anymore, so this could be a sign.
    stuartfit
  • patented in 2000

    they only have 2 more years on that patent - right?
    masukuma
    • patent term

      Patents typically last 20 years from when they're filed (non-provisional filing)--you can go find out which patent it is and find the exact date.
      sz89
    • re: patent term

      Industrial design patents in the US last 14 years, that's probaby what you were thinking of. Design patents cover aesthetics only. Utility patents cover function and utility.
      sz89
  • Do a follow up to get more information?

    Please follow up on this post with more information. We'd all like to know the specifics. How much higher is the energy density? How steady are the voltage and current flow during the discharge cycle? When will they appear in products? How much extra do they cost? What products are coming first?
    BillDem
  • Just a little searching

    I found more info - up to 25% more energy, last 1000 charge cycles or more. Still no idea what they cost. Bet they're expensive.
    Greenknight_z
  • Expensive?

    In the very beginning, like everything else. Once all those battery packs manufacturers adopt new technology, price will go down. Many "sensitive equipment" users will not ask for price just to get 50% to 60% charge cycles more...
    Orbtronic
  • Thank you. Answers to some of the questions re: Li-imide™

    First, it’s really great to see all the enthusiasm about the potential of Li-imide™. Battery chemistry is certainly one area where Moore’s Law does not apply. In fact, with batteries it’s usually all about evolution and rarely about a revolution – though any battery evolution is welcomed these days, particularly in mobile and automotive.

    Let me try and briefly answer the main queries. Leyden Energy’s Li-imide technology may deliver 10-25% greater energy density (and thus longer run-time per charge) with longer cycle and calendar life even at higher temperatures (mobile devices can run extremely hot inside and those temperatures cause accelerated degradation to traditional Li-ion batteries). Li-imide’s thermal resilience also means you can charge our batteries faster with less concerns about the long-run viability of the cell, as is the case with standard Li-ion batteries.

    As far as cost, it’s pretty much on a par with standard Li-ion batteries because we can use exactly the same equipment to manufacture it—in fact, our patented electrolyte is compatible with virtually all of the advanced anode and cathode materials being developed, so even higher energy density will be possible down the line. Availability is likely just a matter of time ;)

    We have a unique, stateside rapid prototyping production line in Fremont, CA, and hundreds of battery testing channels – where we test our own cells as well as 3rd party cells. For further information please go to our website leydenenergy dot com – and visit the technology section – where there are a few white papers you can freely download to learn more about Li-imide™ and the problems it addresses. You can also shoot us an e-mail - info at leydenenergy dot com for more information (Disclosure: I am VP marketing at Leyden Energy)
    nkedem
    • Thanks for the follow up!

      What about availablity of the components and it's expected impact as a complete replacement of Lithium-Ion? Are the materials rare that would always make them more expensive than Lithium-Ion and would the sources of the materials run out anytime soon or located in politically unstable countries?
      MajorlyCool