Differences in Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries

Most battery packs are of the LiPo type. Li-Ion and LiPo batteries have essentially the same chemical make-up, they both rely on lithium ion exchange between the lithium carbon cathode & anode, and are cared for in the same way; the primary differences are in how the cells are packaged and the type of electrolyte that is used.

Li-Ion

Li-Ion batteries use a flammable solvent based organic liquid as the electrolyte. This electrolyte is responsible for the lithium ion exchange between the electrodes (anode and cathode) just like any type of battery. Li-Ion batteries are usually encased in a hard metal can (again like a more conventional battery) to keep the electrodes wound up tight against the separator sheet adding weight and not allowing many different options as far as shape and size.

LiPo

A true LiPo battery doesn’t use a liquid electrolyte but instead uses a dry electrolyte polymer separator sheet that resembles a thin plastic film. This separator is sandwiched (actually laminated) between the anode and cathode of the battery (lithium carbon coated aluminum & copper plates) allowing for the lithium ion exchange – thus the name lithium polymer. This method allows for a very thin and wide range of shapes and sizes of cells.

The problem with true LiPo cell construction is the lithium ion exchange through the dry electrolyte polymer is slow and thus greatly reduces the discharge and charging rates. This problem can be somewhat overcome by heating up the battery to allow for a faster lithium ion exchange through the polymer between anode and cathode, but is not practical for most applications.

If they could crack this problem, the safety risk of lithium batteries would be greatly reduced. With the big push towards electric cars and energy storage, there is no doubt some pretty huge developments will be made in ultra light weight dry and safe LiPo’s in the coming years. Seeing that theoretically this type of battery could be made flexible, almost like a fabric, just think of the possibilities.

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