An invention, called Stoba, which was developed at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan, sits between the positive and negative poles of the battery. When the battery temperature hits 130 degrees centigrade, Stoba transforms from a porous material to a solid film barrier and shuts down the reaction.
Alex Pang, the senior researcher who led a team that developed the new material over four years, said that when lithium-ion batteries develop internal shorts they can quickly heat up to as high as 500 degrees centigrade and catch fire or explode.
Adding a third substance that acts as a controller prevents the battery from ever getting out of control.
Pang said that battery makers in Taiwan are in the testing stage and have ramped up manufacturing of Stoba-equipped cells to the thousands. They expect to begin shipping in the first quarter of 2010.
Talking to Reuters, Pang said that Stoba will add only two to three per cent to the cost of lithium-ion battery manufacturing. He is trying to flog the technology to major laptop and phone manufacturers.