Conductive plastic for a better (lighter) battery

  • 14-Oct-2009 09:53 EDT

Integral has developed a moldable conductive plastic it calls ElectriPlast, which consists of small single pellets compounded with metal fibers that may help streamline production of batteries and electronics.

“While you can’t change the basics of how batteries work, you can change the materials that are used to create them,” asserted Bill Robinson, the CEO of Integral Technologies Inc. And that is precisely what the Bellingham, WA-based company did; it has developed a moldable conductive plastic called ElectriPlast, a polymer blend that can be used to conduct electricity.

ElectriPlast consists of small single pellets compounded with metal fibers that, when poured into a molding machine and shaped, may help streamline production of batteries and electronics. According to Robinson, the uniqueness of ElectriPlast is in the way the materials blend when molded.

“Other like materials are a salt-and-peppered mix creating hot and cold spots within the molded product; ElectriPlast does not have this issue as all the materials are blended within a single pellet,” he explained. “The pellet is the key to this whole process, as the customer has only one thing to do once they receive our product: mold or extrude their widget.”

With ElectriPlast replacing lead or stainless steel, the company claims that batteries could be 20 to 30 lb (9 to 14 kg) lighter than traditional ones used today. Robinson believes the material will be used extensively in current vehicles and future hybrid models.

“The ElectriPlast material has been in development for the past five years but has now been perfected and can now be duplicated and customized for any customer anywhere,” he said. “We are capable of producing 50,000 lb per month and can expand the production facility within six weeks for additional production.”

The company’s manufacturing partner is Jasper, IN-based Jasper Rubber Products. Several second tier suppliers are analyzing the ElectriPlast materials, Robinson noted.

Beyond supplying a battery manufacturer with different blends for molded parts in a standard 12-V battery, the company has provided several large antenna makers with specific blends. One of these manufacturers has made a final prototype and is testing the antenna for commercialization, according to Integral.

Other potential uses include a molded part in a new military shielding application, as well as manufacturing electrical wire in a “revolutionary way” that is, according to Integral, receiving interest from wire manufacturers.

Nearly 120 patents have been filed around the product and its use.

When asked what the anticipated cost of the material would be compared to traditional lead or stainless steel, the CEO responded, “Cost is not a factor right now, as the weight savings on any auto part is what the manufacturer is wanting—lighter vehicles result in better mileage.”

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