The battery is a fundamental component of the mobile devices we use daily, including mobile phones, laptop computers and cordless power tools. Batteries will also become the new energy source for vehicles in the coming years as manufacturers move away from petroleum fuels.
Primary (non-rechargeable) batteries such a zinc-carbon and alkaline batteries are the most established and widespread technology used globally with Alkaline batteries accounting for between 40% and 80% of the battery market depending on country. However, secondary (rechargeable) batteries such as Li-ion technology represent the largest growth area with their use fundamental to the uptake of electric vehicles, renewable energy storage and continued growth in mobile electronics.
Lithium-ion and other secondary battery technology is rapidly developing, and is still maturing in order to meet future demands. Depending on application requirements, batteries can be engineered for fast charge time, long cycle life or maximum capacity and we would all like to see lighter, more powerful batteries that last longer. This requires a fundamental understanding of the battery properties and the important relationship between material structure, properties, processing and performance. Malvern Panalytical have the characterization solutions and applications expertise to understand this complex relationship helping researchers and manufacturers across the world to optimize their battery materials and cells.
Particle size, particle shape and purity are important parameters for the materials that are used in a battery. Particle size distributions are generally determined with laser diffraction, which is the most widely used techniques for particle size analysis in this sector although for nanoscale particles Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) can be more appropriate. For measuring the crystallite size of electrode particles (one particle is often made of several crystallites) X-ray diffraction is commonly used. For particle shape analysis, Automated Imaging is a valuable tool also since it provides information on particle shape distribution which can influence packing behavior in the electrode and the viscosity of battery slurries.
Polymers are also widely used as binders and separator materials in batteries, hence Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC) is often employed for determining the molecular weight and molecular structure of these materials since they impact on physical properties.
Chemical purity of the electrode particle is also of significant importance and can be determined with X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy (elemental purity) or X-ray diffraction (XRD) for mineralogical or phase purity.
Producing batteries with constant quality requires careful mixing and coating of the components. Our rheometers are used to optimize the viscosity of the slurry for optimum stability, coating and calendaring performance. X-ray methods allow you to see the homogeneity and preferred orientation of the electrode particles, which are critical to electrochemical performance. Furthermore, with our unique hard X-ray solutions it is possible to perform XRD transmission measurements allowing you to see inside working pouch cells and prismatic cells during charge and discharge cycling and follow the Li uptake of cathode and anode.
New battery materials
For (academic) researchers, our suite of characterization tools helps synthesizing new battery materials and evaluate working cells, also as a function of cell temperature. Complement your electrical characterization of working test cells with X-ray measurements and link these effects with crystallographic changes. Our solutions are commonly used by researchers working on alternative cathode and anode materials.
Failure analysis and recycling
Recent safety incidents with Li-ion batteries have raised concerns amongst battery producers and manufacturers of devices employing battery technology as battery failures have the potential to cause harm and can impact brand reputation. Our tools help analyzing failed batteries, even before opening them.
With the expected increase in Li-ion battery use, recycling will become an important theme in the coming years. Our tools can determine the materials in the battery cell, before its disassembly. After disassembly, we can help you to determine the effectiveness of your processes for separating battery waste into useful fractions.