Lithium Polymer battery

The Lithium Polymer battery

The Li-polymer differentiates itself from other battery systems in the type of electrolyte used. The original design, dating back to the 1970s, uses a dry solid polymer electrolyte. This electrolyte resembles a plastic-like film that does not conduct electricity but allows an exchange of ions (electrically charged atoms or groups of atoms). The polymer electrolyte replaces the traditional porous separator, which is soaked with electrolyte.

The dry polymer design offers simplifications with respect to fabrication, ruggedness, safety and thin-profile geometry. There is no danger of flammability because no liquid or gelled electrolyte is used. With a cell thickness measuring as little as one millimeter (0.039 inches), equipment designers are left to their own imagination in terms of form, shape and size.

Unfortunately, the dry Li-polymer suffers from poor conductivity. Internal resistance is too high and cannot deliver the current bursts needed for modern communication devices and spinning up the hard drives of mobile computing equipment. Heating the cell to 60°C (140°F) and higher increases the conductivity but this requirement is unsuitable for portable applications.

To make a small Li-polymer battery conductive, some gelled electrolyte has been added. Most of the commercial Li-polymer batteries used today for mobile phones are a hybrid and contain gelled electrolyte. The correct term for this system is Lithium Ion Polymer. For promotional reasons, most battery manufacturers mark the battery simply as Li-polymer. Since the hybrid lithium polymer is the only functioning polymer battery for portable use today, we will focus on this chemistry.

With gelled electrolyte added, what then is the difference between classic Li‑ion and Li‑ion polymer? Although the characteristics and performance of the two systems are very similar, the Li‑ion polymer is unique in that solid electrolyte replaces the porous separator. The gelled electrolyte is simply added to enhance ion conductivity.

Technical difficulties and delays in volume manufacturing have deferred the introduction of the Li‑ion polymer battery. In addition, the promised superiority of the Li‑ion polymer has not yet been realized. No improvements in capacity gains are achieved — in fact, the capacity is slightly less than that of the standard Li‑ion battery. For the present, there is no cost advantage. The major reason for switching to the Li-ion polymer is form factor. It allows wafer-thin geometries, a style that is demanded by the highly competitive mobile phone industry.


Advantages and Limitations of Li-ion Polymer Batteries


Very low profile — batteries that resemble the profile of a credit card are feasible.

Flexible form factor — manufacturers are not bound by standard cell formats. With high volume, any reasonable size can be produced economically.

Light weight – gelled rather than liquid electrolytes enable simplified packaging, in some cases eliminating the metal shell.

Improved safety — more resistant to overcharge; less chance for electrolyte leakage.


Lower energy density and decreased cycle count compared to Li-ion — potential for improvements exist.

Expensive to manufacture — once mass-produced, the Li-ion polymer has the potential for lower cost. Reduced control circuit offsets higher manufacturing costs.

Source: The battery university