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08/22/2007

Not Ready for Prime time

This will be another in my series of very short columns
occasioned by the demands of care giving for my wife after her
back surgery four weeks ago. I’ve gotten the laundry gig down
very well but the “cooking”, or what passes for the term, is a
problem. Keeping track of pain medications prescribed by three
different doctors also proves to require some degree of attention.
Hopefully, an MRI performed yesterday will provide a clue as to
the source of my wife’s sciatic pain.

There’s been a major pain in the world of lithium-ion batteries,
as we’ve discussed in past columns. The recalls of thousands or
millions of these batteries continues and more than one
manufacturer seems affected by production problems leading to
fires or explosions of batteries in computer applications. Even
so, we mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a hybrid train in
Japan was scheduled to be in operation this month with lithium-
ion batteries riding on top of the train. The hybrid train was
inspired by Toyota’s success with its hybrid Prius automobile.

Now Brian Trumbore has called my attention to an article by
Norihiko Shirouzu in the August 9 Wall Street Journal. The
article says that Toyota had been planning to launch a number of
different model hybrid cars using lithium-ion batteries. The
launches were apparently scheduled to begin next year but
purportedly the plans have now been put on hold or delayed in
view of all the problems with these lithium batteries in the
computer world. So, it will continue to be nickel-metal hydride
battery that helps power the various hybrid autos on the market
today.

Whereas Toyota reportedly planned to use the compound lithium
cobalt oxide in its hybrid vehicles, GM may be considering other
compounds in the phosphate category. The phosphate materials
have been the objects of considerable research and development
and are considered more stable and less likely to catch fire or
explode than the cobalt oxide compound.

Regardless of which material is used as the cathode material, I
worry that the problem with at least the Sony lithium-ion
batteries has reportedly been small chards of metal that result in
short circuits. Regardless of the cathode material, the shorts can
ignite the flammable organic solvent(s) in the battery’s
electrolyte, which in turn causes the fire or explosion. Perhaps
the design of larger automotive lithium-ion batteries can be made
such that the likelihood of any metal particles being introduced is
negligible. Otherwise, I’m not going to be comfortable with a
hybrid car with other than the nickel-metal hydride batteries,
which to my knowledge, have been relatively free of any similar
problems.

Well, back to my care giving. Hopefully, I’ll soon get back to
considering more monumental topics; for example, the recent
discovery of the collision of several huge galaxies to form a
humongous super galaxy. Were Carl Sagan alive, he would have
been able to talk about billions and billions and billions of stars
in one big clump.

Allen F. Bortrum



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-08/22/2007-      
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Dr. Bortrum

08/22/2007

Not Ready for Prime time

This will be another in my series of very short columns
occasioned by the demands of care giving for my wife after her
back surgery four weeks ago. I’ve gotten the laundry gig down
very well but the “cooking”, or what passes for the term, is a
problem. Keeping track of pain medications prescribed by three
different doctors also proves to require some degree of attention.
Hopefully, an MRI performed yesterday will provide a clue as to
the source of my wife’s sciatic pain.

There’s been a major pain in the world of lithium-ion batteries,
as we’ve discussed in past columns. The recalls of thousands or
millions of these batteries continues and more than one
manufacturer seems affected by production problems leading to
fires or explosions of batteries in computer applications. Even
so, we mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a hybrid train in
Japan was scheduled to be in operation this month with lithium-
ion batteries riding on top of the train. The hybrid train was
inspired by Toyota’s success with its hybrid Prius automobile.

Now Brian Trumbore has called my attention to an article by
Norihiko Shirouzu in the August 9 Wall Street Journal. The
article says that Toyota had been planning to launch a number of
different model hybrid cars using lithium-ion batteries. The
launches were apparently scheduled to begin next year but
purportedly the plans have now been put on hold or delayed in
view of all the problems with these lithium batteries in the
computer world. So, it will continue to be nickel-metal hydride
battery that helps power the various hybrid autos on the market
today.

Whereas Toyota reportedly planned to use the compound lithium
cobalt oxide in its hybrid vehicles, GM may be considering other
compounds in the phosphate category. The phosphate materials
have been the objects of considerable research and development
and are considered more stable and less likely to catch fire or
explode than the cobalt oxide compound.

Regardless of which material is used as the cathode material, I
worry that the problem with at least the Sony lithium-ion
batteries has reportedly been small chards of metal that result in
short circuits. Regardless of the cathode material, the shorts can
ignite the flammable organic solvent(s) in the battery’s
electrolyte, which in turn causes the fire or explosion. Perhaps
the design of larger automotive lithium-ion batteries can be made
such that the likelihood of any metal particles being introduced is
negligible. Otherwise, I’m not going to be comfortable with a
hybrid car with other than the nickel-metal hydride batteries,
which to my knowledge, have been relatively free of any similar
problems.

Well, back to my care giving. Hopefully, I’ll soon get back to
considering more monumental topics; for example, the recent
discovery of the collision of several huge galaxies to form a
humongous super galaxy. Were Carl Sagan alive, he would have
been able to talk about billions and billions and billions of stars
in one big clump.

Allen F. Bortrum