Engineers at the University of Sheffield have introduced an innovative method to determine the internal structure and condition of lithium-ion batteries. This breakthrough, featured in a study published in the Journal of Energy Storage, has the potential to detect battery problems earlier, prolonging their lifespan and reducing electronic waste.
The technique, which utilizes a single ultrasonic wave, allows engineers to reverse engineer a lithium-ion battery cell for the first time. These batteries are commonly found in electronic devices like mobile phones and laptops, as well as electric vehicles. Identifying battery defects during production can reduce the number of faulty products that reach consumers. Additionally, employing this method during servicing will provide a more precise assessment of a battery’s health.
Currently, using an X-ray machine is the primary way to accurately assess the internal condition of a lithium-ion battery. However, this method is expensive and impractical for businesses, manufacturers, and consumers. Consequently, defects often go unnoticed until visible damage, like swelling, occurs, which is typically when the battery is irreparable.
The University of Sheffield’s breakthrough offers a potential solution to this problem by developing a low-cost yet effective system for evaluating the health of lithium-ion batteries. However, further development is necessary before widespread adoption by the industry.
Moreover, this technique opens up the possibility of creating small sensors that can be fitted onto batteries to provide real-time monitoring of their condition. This advancement could have significant implications for monitoring the health of batteries in electric vehicles, as well as smaller consumer electronics such as laptops and mobile phones.
Royce Copley, a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield and the lead author of the study, emphasized the significance of lithium-ion batteries in our everyday lives. He explained that these batteries power electric vehicles and their condition directly impacts how far the vehicle can travel before needing to be charged. Copley expressed his belief that this new technique could resolve battery-related problems, offering a cheap and effective way of detecting issues before they reach the consumer.
Professor Rob Dwyer-Joyce, a researcher in the study and Professor of Lubrication Engineering at the University of Sheffield, added that this method has the potential to improve the reliability of batteries in electronic devices. Although its precision is currently limited under certain test conditions, further research and development could enable its use in the production phase, allowing manufacturers to identify issues before shipping. It can also be employed during servicing to extend the lifespan of electric vehicles and consumer electronics.
Following the publication of their research, the Sheffield engineers are actively seeking an industrial partner to aid in the development of the technology. Professor Dwyer-Joyce expressed excitement about this breakthrough, emphasizing the team’s eagerness to progress the technology and explore its various applications.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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