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USA: Frontier Electronics charges into lithium battery revolution

— STILLWATER — The quest for a better battery starts here.

Engineers at Stillwater-based Frontier Electronic Systems and University of Tulsa researchers are developing the next generation of lithium ion battery that promises to be safer, smaller and more powerful.

Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are used in cellphones, laptop computers, medical devices, electric cars and even the international space station.

Lithium ion batteries have drawbacks.

Lithium, a lightweight metal, is highly flammable. Lithium ion batteries were recalled in 2006 because of potential for explosions or fires. Lithium ion batteries only last two or three years from the date of manufacture and need an on-board computer to manage the battery, which is ruined if it ever completely discharges.

Battery technology hasn’t advanced since Sony commercialized the lithium ion battery in 1991. Since 1991, cell phones, laptops and other devices do more things and use more energy.

“Better technology just hasn’t kept up with the pace, quite frankly. You really would like your battery to last longer in your laptop and your cell phone. You would like to be able to charge them faster. It’s a real limiting factor in many of those autonomous devices that have self-contained power supplies,” University of Tulsa professor Dale Teeters said. Teeters is head of the TU chemistry and biochemistry program. He has been researching battery technology for more than 29 years, and started applying nano-technology to batteries about a dozen years ago.

Nano-technology can be defined as engineering at a very small scale — the level of atoms and molecules.

Under his guidance, TU has developed a nano-material that will improve lithium ion battery performance. It helps the battery charge faster, perform longer and hold more power.

“That’s what we have been doing at the University of Tulsa for the last few years, trying to improve battery performance by bringing in nano-technology,” he said.

Frontier Electronic Systems entered the picture about two years ago.

Engineers Lloyd Salsman and Ed Shreve knew of Teeters’ research and approached him about turning research into reality.
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