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April 23, 2013

Gcorelab Developing Technology to Prevent Safety Issues Experienced by Lithium-Ion Batteries

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

The market for lithium batteries is expected to total $10 billion in sales by next year – with lithium-ion batteries making up close to 86 percent of the total amount.

Lithium batteries – such as in laptops – are widely used, but there are safety issues connected to their use. At times, lithium-ion batteries have overheated, which could cause fires or even explosions, Underwriters Laboratories warned.

For instance, both iPhones and electric toothbrushes have seen explosions from their lithium-ion batteries. Boeing’s (News - Alert) new Dreamliner 787 airplanes also saw batteries overheat, and it is a risk for electric vehicles as well.

“Passive safeguards for single-cell batteries and active safeguards for multi-cell batteries (such as those used in electric vehicles) have been designed to mitigate or prevent some failures,” UL said in a recent statement. “However, major challenges in performance and safety still exist, including the thermal stability of active materials within the battery at high temperatures and the occurrence of internal short circuits that may lead to thermal runaway.”

But now a Singapore clean-technology company, Gcorelab, has raised $482,000 for new technology that may be able to prevent some of the thermal issues experienced by lithium-ion batteries. The new money came from Red Dot Ventures.

“When the cells do overheat, they can cause a chain reaction with neighboring cells, in a process known as thermal runway propagation, and this can lead to explosions,” TechCrunch explained in a recent report.

Gcorelab received a patent for its cooling technology.

“It relies on cooling plates, and … its ‘oblique fin technology’ can achieve 50 to 80 percent better results compared with liquid cooling, while using the same amount of energy,” TechCrunch reported based on company claims.

“Currently, battery thermal management is transitioning from air cooling to liquid cooling systems. While affordable and easy to implement, air cooling is vastly inferior in terms of heat transfer performance compared to liquid cooling,” Gcorelab co-founder Ray Kung added in a statement to TechCrunch.

Lithium-ion batteries in most electric vehicles produce so much heat they need their own cooling systems, TMCnet added. Gcorelab predicts the electric vehicle electronics cooling market will total $5.7 billion a year by 2020. Other markets, such as cooling for wind turbines and the aerospace sector, will total about $20 million by 2020.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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