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Toshiba: fast-charging Li-Ion battery prototype
(Wednesday, March 30, 2005 - 08:53 EST)

Toshiba Japan has announced a new battery technology that it says provides a "breakthrough" in recharging times over existing Lithium Ion batteries, all the while maintaining cost performance, and improving both energy / power density and life cycle.

According to Toshiba's press release, it has tested a prototype 600mAh battery with dimensions of 3.8mm x 62mm x 35mm (roughly equivalent in volume to a standard AA battery), and found that it can be recharged to 80% capacity in just one minute. The company further notes that the battery lost only 1% of its capacity after 1,000 recharges at a standard temperature of 25 degrees centigrade, and even at 45 degrees centigrade lost just 5% of its capacity after 1,000 cycles. At minus 40 degrees centigrade, Toshiba says that the battery still delivered 80% of its capacity.

The release unfortunately leaves out one very important piece of information, namely the cell voltage. Without this figure, we can't determine what improvement in energy density Toshiba is claiming for its prototype as compared to existing Lithium Ion batteries (a graphic alongside the release claims improvements in this area, but has no markings to indicate a scale).

It seems that the big news with the new technology may be in areas that aren't of primary concern for most digicam users, namely the extremely (!) rapid recharge times, good capacity at low temperatures, and ability to withstand very large numbers of charge/discharge cycles without loss of capacity. All those factors would seem to make it ideal for use in hybrid cars, or regenerative braking systems for locomotives (both areas Toshiba apparently intends to pursue).

As for digicam owners - well, it sounds interesting (some digicam owners would obviously like these extremely fast recharge times, and some would obviously like batteries that work in subzero conditions). For the bulk of users, though, conventional NiMH and Li-Ion technology simply works well enough, so the push to adopt this technology may not be strong enough in the near term, particularly if it adds any costs to the recharging technology or batteries themselves.

Original Source Press Release:

Toshiba's New Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Recharges in Only One Minute

New battery offers unsurpassed recharge performance and high energy density

29 March, 2005 -- TOKYO -- Toshiba Corporation today announced a breakthrough in lithium-ion batteries that makes long recharge times a thing of the past. The company's new battery can recharge 80% of a battery's energy capacity in only one minute, approximately 60 times faster than the typical lithium-ion batteries in wide use today, and combines this fast recharge time with performance-boosting improvements in energy density.

The new battery fuses Toshiba's latest advances in nano-material technology for the electric devices sector with cumulative know-how in manufacturing lithium-ion battery cells. A breakthrough technology applied to the negative electrode uses new nano-particles to prevent organic liquid electrolytes from reducing during battery recharging. The nano-particles quickly absorb and store vast amount of lithium ions, without causing any deterioration in the electrode.

The excellent recharging characteristics of new battery are not its only performance advantages. The battery has a long life cycle, losing only 1% of capacity after 1,000 cycles of discharging and recharging, and can operate at very low temperatures. At minus 40 degrees centigrade, the battery can discharge 80% of its capacity, against 100% in an ambient temperature of 25 degree centigrade).

Toshiba will bring the new rechargeable battery to commercial products in 2006. Initial applications will be in the automotive and industrial sectors, where the slim, small-sized battery will deliver large amounts of energy while requiring only a minute to recharge. For example, the battery's advantages in size, weight and safety highly suit it for a role as an alternative power source for hybrid electric vehicles.

Toshiba expects that the high energy density and excellent recharge performance of the new battery will assure its successful application as a new energy solution in many areas of society.

Major Specifications of New Battery

  1. Excellent Recharge Performance
    The thin battery recharges to 80% of full capacity in only a minute. Total recharge takes only a few more minutes.
  2. High Energy Density
    Small and light, the new battery offers a high level of storage efficiency. The prototype battery is only 3.8mm thick, 62mm high and 35mm deep and has a capacity of 600mAh.
  3. Long Life Cycle
    A prototype of new battery (a laminated lithium ion battery with 600mAh capacity) was discharged and fully recharged 1,000 times at a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade and lost only 1% of capacity during the test.
  4. Temperature
    The new battery operates well in extremes of temperature. It discharges 80% of its capacity at minus 40 degrees centigrade, against 100% at an ambient temperature of 25 degrees centigrade, and loses only 5% of capacity at temperatures as high as 45 degrees centigrade after 1,000 cycles. These characteristics assure the wide applicability of the battery as a power source for products as diverse as hybrid vehicles and mobile phones.
  5. Eco-friendly Battery
    The new battery can quickly store energy produced by locomotives and automobiles. This speedy and highly effective recharge characteristic of the battery will support CO2 reduction, as the battery can save and re-use energy that was simply wasted before.
Information in the press releases, including product prices and specifications, content of services and contact information, is current on the date of the press announcement,but is subject to change without prior notice.

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