Most detailed X-ray image of batteries yet to reveal why they still aren't good enough | 5/30/2019 | Staff
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Electric cars rely on the same lithium-ion battery technology that's in smartphones, laptops and virtually everything electronic.

But the technology has been extremely slow to improve. While electric cars can more than handle the average American's daily commute, the average gas-powered car can still go farther on a full tank of gas, charging stations are scarce and it takes significantly longer to charge a battery than to fill a tank.

Capacity - Lithium-ion - Batteries - Adoption - Cars

To improve charging capacity in lithium-ion batteries and increase adoption of electric cars, the industry will have to return to the basic science of how batteries wear out over time.

A multi-institute team of researchers has developed the most comprehensive view yet of lithium-ion battery electrodes, where most damage typically occurs from charging them repeatedly. Manufacturers could use this information to design batteries for your smartphone or car that are both more reliable and longer-lasting, the researchers say.

Creation - Knowledge - Problem - Battery - Electrode

"The creation of knowledge is sometimes more valuable than solving the problem of battery electrode damage," said Kejie Zhao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University. "Before, people didn't have the techniques or theory to understand this problem."

The technique, explained in the journals Advanced Energy Materials and the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, is essentially an X-ray tool driven by artificial intelligence. It can automatically scan thousands of particles in a lithium-ion battery electrode at once – all the way down to the atoms that make up the particles themselves – using machine-learning algorithms.

Millions - Particles - Battery - Electrode - Researchers

Granted, there are actually millions of particles in a battery electrode. But researchers can now analyze them more thoroughly than they could before – and at the various operating conditions that we use commercial batteries in the real world, such as their voltage window and how quickly they charge.

"Most work had been focused on the single particle level...
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