Panasonic said it has developed a lithium-ion battery that won't overheat even if a short circuit occurs.
The new battery includes a heat-resistive insulator inside the battery cell, next to an existing separator that insulates the anode and cathode. If that separator is punctured a short circuit occurs that typically causes the battery to overheat and in some circumstances catch fire. Panasonic said its insulator layer ensures that the battery won't overheat even in the event of a short circuit.
Panasonic's announcement responds to consumers' concern about the safety of lithium-ion batteries following a number of incidents involving them.
Earlier this year most major laptop computer makers started recall or exchange programs for batteries containing lithium-ion cells made by Sony after a number of batteries overheated and caught fire. Sony blamed the problem on metallic particles that got inside the battery during production, puncturing the separator layer and causing a short circuit. The replacement program covers 9.6 million batteries and will cost Sony up to $432 million (£221m).
Then on 7 December, Japanese mobile-carrier NTT DoCoMo and handset-maker Mitsubishi recalled 1.3 million cellphone batteries made by Sanyo, saying they could overheat and catch fire.
And last week the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standards Association said it was prioritising work to agree a revised standard for the design, manufacture and testing of lithium-ion batteries for notebooks and other mobile computing devices has been fast-tracked within the next 12 months.
Panasonic's new batteries are made by another company in Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Company group, the Matsushita Battery Industrial Company, and are ready for mass production, said Akira Kadota, a spokesman for Panasonic in Tokyo.
The batteries aren't available directly to end users but are sold in bulk to electronics product manufacturers, so Panasonic wouldn't reveal their price. Kadota said they could be more expensive than current cells but could also work out cheaper if large orders are placed.
Matsushita Battery Industrial is one of the largest battery makers in Japan.
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