Lithium polymer batteries, also known as LiPo batters, are rechargeable electrochemical cells popular among radio control hobbyists and utilised in numerous other applications, such as small-scale robotics and wireless consumer products. LiPo batteries are lightweight and versatile.
Rechargeable lithium polymer batteries were first manufactured for wide scale consumer use by Sony Corp. of Tokyo in the early 1990s. They were seen as an alternative to the unstable, highly reactive and potentially dangerous lithium metals commonly found in batteries up to that time. The energy density and average operating voltage of LiPo batteries are today up to three times that of nickel-cadmium batteries.
As in all batteries, energy is produced in lithium polymer batteries through an electrochemical reaction contained within the battery cell. These batteries represent an improvement in conventional battery chemistry due to their increased energy output and low recharge time.
Advantages and Limitations
LiPo batteries produce twice the energy, weigh half as much and hold a full charge longer than nickel cadmium batteries. Longevity is a drawback, though, because their lifespan tends to be only about four years.
LiPo batteries are commonly found in remote control vehicles, cell phones and cordless phones. Other applications include notebook computers, mp3 players and PDAs. Researchers are currently studying the potential use of lithium polymer batteries in automobiles and other modes of transportation.
LiPo batteries can be extremely dangerous if used improperly. They have caused fires in homes and automobiles after erupting during charging or after impact. They are also extremely sensitive to high temperatures and must be properly stored to avoid spontaneous combustion. They should be stored in fireproof containers when not in use, and not left unattended when charging.