SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — A unit of Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. has entered the market with rechargeable lithium polymer batteries.
The batteries went into limited distribution in Nokia Oyj cellular telephones in late 2000, said Alan Froloff, marketing director with Sanyo Energy (USA) Corp. in San Diego.
"We are focusing on cellular phones and looking into [personal digital assistant] applications," he said.
One observer now expects the product to take off.
"Now that there is a viable commercial product out with the Sanyo product, others will start to follow," Vin D'Agostino, a principal with product development firm BNS Solutions in Walpole, Mass., said in an interview at Portable Design 2001, held Jan. 29-31 in Santa Clara.
Sanyo developed an all-gel polymer battery with a microporous film separating the electrodes. A common type of polymer battery uses a gel polymer film as a separator.
Sanyo uses a new cross-linked polymer material with high ionic conductivity and high electrolyte retention. To form the gel, Sanyo polymerizes the material inside the battery.
The technology remains young.
"There is not enough lab data at this point to draw a perfect conclusion about the advantages of polymer in lithium chemistries," D'Agostino said. "There are some predicted advantages, certainly, for those polymer structures that minimize some of the major catastrophic effects — like slicing off the end of a battery and not having the electrolyte leak all over the place."
Some lithium polymer batteries have gone through tests including trials for military applications, but Sanyo's Japan-made product is the first being manufactured in large commercial volumes.