A123 Systems Case Study Analysis

A123 Systems

History of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Rechargeable battery evolution accelerated as the world transitioned to instruments enabled by silicon microchip technology from those of bulky electrical components. Mobile devices were designed to be powered by lightweight energy storage systems. The development of batteries for this rapidly evolving market was challenging:
• The nickel cadmium battery had been the only option for modern electronics for many years. It was a great improvement over carbon batteries.
• Later, nickel-hydride batteries became the technology of choice.
• Lithium-ion batteries became available in the 1990s, offering higher energy densities. This technology won out nickel-hydride.

The lithium-ion rechargeable battery offered advantages that were previously unavailable:
• Lithium is the lightest of all metals
• It had the largest electrochemical potential
• It provided the greatest energy content per unit volume
• It had no memory effect
• Its energy leakage rate was less than half that of NiCd and NiMH
• The first of its type was developed by Sony in 1990 with enough cycles to be usable for rechargeable batteries
o Mass production took place in 1991
o Panasonic and Sanyo quickly developed similar batteries that were on the market by 1994

Big advances in a mature industry like batteries were hard to find. Advances in the field focused only on finding slightly better materials or thinning the layers to improve performance.

Pre-A123 Systems: History of Lithium-Ion battery Innovation

Pre-A123 research group

Professor Yet-Ming Chiang directed a mid-sized research group at MIT that focused on design, synthesis and characterization of adv ...
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