A multi-institute team of scientists and researchers have come together to develop the most comprehensive and detailed image of the electrodes of lithium-ion batteries ever created. This information could help scientists to create batteries with better charging power, or at least help them to understand why current batteries get so damaged during the charging process.
“The creation of knowledge is sometimes more valuable than solving the problem of battery electrode damage. Before, people didn’t have the techniques or theory to understand this problem.”
To develop a comprehensive picture of the inside of a lithium-ion battery, scientists used an X-ray tool. Powered by artificial intelligence, the device is capable of scanning thousands of particles automatically. Thanks to machine-learning algorithms, the scan can go all the way down to the atoms of the particles.
This information can help scientists to better understand how batteries act under various different operating conditions, and even what is needed to improve some of the technology. Scientists will be able to analyze the charge time of lithium-ion batteries, as well as their voltage window. With this data, they hope to be able to design more powerful and effective batteries for a variety of different applications.
When a battery charges, the lithium ions move back and forth between a positive electrode and a negative one. As the ions interact with the particles found in the electrodes, the electrodes experience significant wear and tear, degrading and cracking over time. Damage to the electrodes results in a reduction in the charging capacity of a battery — and it’s not particularly easy to make a high-powered battery that can withstand the test of time.
But scientists are hopeful that a more detailed understanding of the electrodes in batteries will help, particularly the cracks that occur within them after repeat use. They already have reported findings regarding their research, including a better understanding of the movement of lithium ions as they travel through a battery.
That being said, this comprehensive picture doesn’t show the complete image of lithium-ion batteries. While the X-ray device scans thousands of particles, battery electrodes contain millions. Scientists hope to continue their research and develop even more comprehensive X-ray scans that will grant them a more complete look at what makes lithium-ion batteries work — and how they can take their performances to the next level.