South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd and its LX Hausys Ltd affiliate announced they have made a breakthrough in the development of a material that significantly delays thermal runaway in electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

Thermal runaway is the main cause of EV battery fires and occurs when excessive heat is generated in a battery cell due to stress from various causes. It is one of the main factors that has slowed the popularity of EVs globally, according to the company, as existing plastics so far have struggled to contain battery fires.

LG Chem claims its latest Special Flame Retardant Continuous Fiber Thermoplastic (CFT) material can withstand strong flames at 1,500℃ for over 20 minutes, 14 times longer than thermoplastics currently in use.

LG Chem said that when it subjected a 1.6 mm thin piece of the material to an internal torch test at temperatures exceeding 1,500°C and also pressure, the material did not melt, run down or develop holes after 20 minutes thanks to a new thermoplastic layering technique. The company claims this represents the highest flame blocking performance of any material to-date. It is also a significant improvement on the material LG Chem developed last year, which could withstand flames generating temperatures exceeding 1,000℃ for 10 minutes.

LG Chem said the new Special Flame-Retardant CFT is a high-rigidity solid with low deformation characteristics, making it ideal as a cover for large battery packs in EVs and in other EV components. The company claims the material can effectively delay the spread of flames in the event of an EV fire, helping to secure more time required for driver/passenger evacuation and fire suppression.

LG Chem’s Head of Engineering Materials Marketing, Tom Shin, said “we have been working closely with LX Hausys since we developed and announced a super flame barrier material last year. We are proud to have a total solution lineup for electric vehicle thermal runaway. We will continue research and development to make the daily lives of EV users safer.”