DESIGN AND QUALITY CONTROL

1. September 2006, 18:49 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

Following the massive recall of lithium-ion batteries in Dell and Apple laptops, speculation has arisen as to whether or not the problem indicates a larger problem - that laptop designs are just too hot and need to be redesigned. Notebook computers increasingly have higher thermal envelopes, and more localized hot spots.

But these alone are not the culprits. One must also look at the chemistry of battery packs in the light of heavy power draw, and the quality control excercised in their manufacture. Lithium-ion cells have little ability to handle overvoltage by themselves and so battery manufacturers add protection circutiry to their battery packs. A lithium-ion battery pack can contain 100 watt-hours of energy, and if damaged, or poorly manufactured or maintained presents considerable risk of combustion.

What is needed is tighter quality assurance, not only by the battery manufacturer, but by the notebook manufacturer in selecting quality products, including chargers (a lithium-ion battery requires a precise charge that does not exceed 4.1 volts), and working on designs to reduce overall heat production within the laptop. Closer monitoring of battery pack conditions is also a must have. To that end, Texas Instruments introduced a new IC that tracks the impedence within the battery pack thus providing an additional tool to monitor battery state.

There are many things that can lead to battery problems: overcharging, high temperatures which can cause battery pack materials to react with the electrolyte, external and internal short circuits and physical damage caused by droppage or rough handling.

It is interesting that given the publicity surrounding the recall, that other companies using the same Sony batteries, including Sony’s own VAIO line, have not followed suit. Perhaps they are waiting for the smell of smoke.

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Categories: ,
Keywords: battery,Dell,Sony,lithium-ion,heat

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