Increasing demands on lithium-ion batteries and their unstable and often volatile reaction under pressure are leading some to question whether the power source is outdated.

Mounting reports of spontaneously combusting electronic devices powered by lithium-ion batteries have raised safety concerns for experts and consumers alike. These reports have also sparked a national conversation about emerging technologies that promise to produce safer lithium-ion batteries.

Scientists and manufacturers are redefining this power source and transforming it to meet the ever-growing demands.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds numerous research projects nationwide in an effort to identify a safer alternative power source. University of Maryland researchers used DOE funding to create a lithium-conducting ceramic disc that can handle thousands of degrees without catching fire. Researchers say it is a safer alternative to the current lithium-ion battery that is coated in a naturally combustible carbon-based solution. They expect it will be mass produced in the future and will replace the current, more dangerous lithium-ion batteries that power many electronics including smartphones.

In October, Japanese automaker Toyota announced it reinvented the lithium-ion battery for its hybrid and electric cars. Toyota modified the manufacturing process to remove more microscopic fragments that can cause battery failure. Its new, proprietary monitoring system can also turn off a defective unit without affecting the rest of the battery. The result is a safer battery with increased capacity that has relatively maintained its compact size.

Reliance on mobile devices and the demand for additional applications requiring more power will continue to rise. Technological advancements are key to meeting these demands and, more importantly, they are critical to protecting consumers.

If you would like more information about lithium-ion batteries, you can contact Will Sutton, a lawyer in Toxic Torts Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at

CBS News
Nanotechnology Now

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