updated 03:40 pm EDT, Fri August 1, 2008
Hitachi Si Alloy Batteries
Hitachi is developing a new generation of lithium-ion battery packs that should significantly extend the running time of portable devices without requiring a radical breakthrough in technology, the company said when discussing its financial results. The Japanese electronics maker plans to swap the graphite used in the electrodes of today's batteries with a silicon alloy material that would increase the effective capacity of a battery by 20 percent without making additional changes.
It also has a lower expansion coefficient that potentially reduces the susceptibility of the battery to overheating and triggering the battery fires that prompted a global recall by Sony in 2007.
The company also plans to use a different alloy for the positive electrode, made of cobalt, magnesium and nickel, that would also improve capacity by an unspecified amount. It would also reduce the dependence on potentially costly cobalt, which makes up the bulk of the electrode in today's batteries, Hitachi says.
Silicon alloy should be implemented in Hitachi's batteries by the end of 2009, while the cobalt mix should be ready elsewhere in the year. No mention is made of the company's exact plans for the invention, though lithium-ion packs are most often used for cellphones as well as notebooks and are likely to replace older nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries in electric and hybrid cars.