Lithium-ion laptop batteries are incredibly popular these days. You can find them in laptops, PDAs, cell phones and iPods. They’re so common because, pound for pound, they’re some of the most energetic rechargeable laptop batteries available.
Lithium-ion laptop batteries have also been in the news lately. That’s because these laptop batteries have the ability to burst into flames occasionally. It’s not very common — just two or three battery packs per million have a problem — but when it happens, it’s extreme.
In some situations, the failure rate can rise, and when that happens you end up with a worldwide battery recall that can cost manufacturers millions of dollars.
So the question is, what makes these laptop batteries so energetic and so popular? How do they burst into flame? And is there anything you can do to prevent the problem or help your laptop batteries last longer? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more.
Lithium-ion laptop batteries are popular because they have a number of important advantages over competing technologies:
They’re generally much lighter than other types of rechargeable laptop batteries of the same size. The electrodes of a lithium-ion battery are made of lightweight lithium and carbon. Lithium is also a highly reactive element, meaning that a lot of energy can be stored in its atomic bonds. This translates into a very high energy density for lithium-ion laptop batteries. Here is a way to get a perspective on energy density.
A typical lithium-ion battery can store 150 watt-hours of electricity in 1 kilogram of battery. A NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) battery pack can store perhaps 100 watt-hours per kilogram, although 60 to 70 watt-hours might be more typical. A lead-acid battery can store only 25 watt-hours per kilogram. Using lead-acid technology, it takes 6 kilograms to store the same amount of energy that a 1-kilogram lithium-ion battery can handle.