The Little Known Film That Makes Lithium Batteries Possible

Polyolefin membrane separator allows higher power, while reducing potential for runaway thermal buildup.

Published: 31-Dec-2009

The key technology that may pave the way for widespread, safe use of electric vehicles is a little-known polymer film system that separates the anode and the cathode in lithium-ion batteries.

The separator itself does not produce any electrochemical reactions, but it has a major impact on energy density, power density, cycle life and safety of the battery.

Exxon, which commercialized the first rechargeable lithium-ion battery, is one of the technology leaders in development of specialty polyolefin films that perform well as separators. Pat Brant, the chief polymer scientist at ExxonMobil Chemical, headed a global research team that developed a separator system that can withstand more demanding hybrid-vehicle battery conditions - the type that will be encountered when GM launches the Chevy Volt in a few months.

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