Merrow Scientific’s Solutions for Battery R&D

A battery is a device which is capable of converting the chemical energy produced in a reaction into electrical energy that can power a number of technologies, including controllers, laptops, and cars. Batteries are made up of at least one electrochemical cell as seen in Image 1 and they consist of an anode, cathode, electrolyte solution (which allows for the flow of both positive and negative ions) and an external circuit. Chemical reactions take place at the electrodes producing electrons, which flow through the external circuit so their electrical energy can be harvested.

Image 1: Shows the basic set up of an electrochemical cell which are used to make batteries

Battery Types

Currently there are two classification of batteries, primary and secondary. Primary batteries can be used until the voltage produced is too low to operate the device, they are powering. The batteries then must be replaced to continue using the device, which is the setup seen in clocks, controllers and detectors etc. The next classification, secondary batteries can be recharged by reversing the process in the electrochemical cell via direct current. These kinds of batteries are found in laptops, phones and some cars and are affected by process like memory effect and self-discharge.

Battery Type Anode Cathode Electrolyte Application
Lead-AcidLead Metal PbPbO2Sulphuric AcidGives car engines a burst of energy
UltraLead Metal PbPbO2Sulphuric AcidWith a supercapacitor to increase battery lifespan
Nickel-CadmiumCadmiumNiO(OH)2Potassium HydroxideFirst rechargeable battery in power tools, torches adn portable devices
AlkalineZinc PowderMnO2AlkalineIdeal conductivity, long run times and low self-discharge rates
Lithium-SulphurSlither of lithium metalMix of sulphur and carbonCheap alternative to lithium-ion
Lithium IonGraphiteCombo of lithium, oxygen and metalLithium salts in solventGood for stacking in electric vehicles

This is the basics of batteries; how they operate; the types and applications they have, and they are becoming one of the most researched topics due to their potential use in a multitude of applications. This research is required due to the growing  limitations and challenges that come alongside battery potential. New materials research is essential in order to increase cell capacity and reduce degradation, self-discharge and memory effect. At merrow scientific our partner companies produce a variety of instruments, which are well suited to battery development and could assist in a multiple areas of battery research, which is further explored below.

MIPAR

MIPAR’s automated image analysis technology can assist in the examination of battery components like electrode materials, separators, and electrolytes to optimise battery performance and longevity. For example: automating cathode composite analysis which can be seen in image two, where the image of the cathode material is broken down into pores, active particles, and the binder, which can be used for quantitative analysis.

Image 2: Shows the Image analysis of a cathode composite

Rheosense

The instruments available at Rheosense can be used to characterise electrolyte solutions for their viscosity, which in combination with dielectric current are responsible for the ion conductivity of the electrolyte solution. This conductivity variable is the main factor in the performance of the charge and discharge cycles in rechargeable batteries, emphasising the importance of its development within the research industry. 

C-Therm

Increasing energy density, storage capacity and cycling speed has one big consequence which is the increased generation of waste heat and the speed at which it is produced. This can lead to thermal runaway issues which is an important hazard to manage to avoid battery material aging but also dangerous situations like fires. Thermal conductivity measurements can be used to better understand the heat-transfer characteristics of the materials used within a battery but also the materials used to construct the cells that form the battery. At C-Therm they have a variety of sensors which can be used alongside their Trident software to accurately measure the thermal conductivity of battery materials, some examples of which can be seen below.

  • MTPS: Testing candidate materials and electrolyte solutions
  • TPS: Thin films can characterise solid phase electrolytes and slat bridge materials

More information on how these sensors work and what might best fit your research can be found here.

Nenovision

The Nenovision LiteScope merges strength of AFM and SEM for In-situ analysis, which can be applied to many areas of batteries, for example evaluating the reactions taking place on the electrodes in-situ, characterising degradation and its effect on the cell, as well as investigating the effect of charge and discharge processes on the morphology, mechanics, and electrochemical environment of battery materials. One example of this is Cathode Active Materials (CAM), which are used for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The in-situ study of the powder particles’ conductivity was required to prolong the battery lifetime, the results of which can be seen in Image 3.  A coating was applied to protect particles from unwanted reactions. A combination of SEM, AFM and C-AFM techniques revealed that the edges of the particles were the most conductive areas. 

Image 3: Shows the combination of SEM, AFM and C-AFM using the LiteScope to analysis Cathode Active Materials.

Timegate

Raman spectroscopy can be used to identify the chemical properties of raw materials, including those used in cathodes, anodes, and electrolytes. To ensure performance of the materials looking to be developed Raman spectroscopy analysis can be used in-situ.

Alemnis

Alemnis standard assembly is a modular indentation platform, which can be used in-situ, ex-situ, in synchrotron and with micro CT to understand load drops, compression artefacts, strain rate jumps, sudden load excursions in real time among a multitude of other test methods. This can be applied to the battery industry to help characterise battery composites and its constituents as seen in this PhD Tesis. Measurements were obtained for the transverse and shear moduli on micron-scale fibers, effect of lithiation on the carbon fiber anode and nanoindentation on carbon fibers.

If these analytical techniques look useful to your research please contact us for more information!