How XRD holds the key to better batteries

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From movie car chases to exciting Formula 1 races, it’s impossible to deny the appeal of a really cool car. That’s why, as our societies transition toward electric and more sustainable energy – especially in our vehicles – it’s important to maintain the performance and convenience that consumers are used to. There shouldn’t be any reason that enthusiastic ‘petrol heads’ can’t love their electric cars!

This presents scientists with a challenge: finding ways to improve battery performance while preserving safety and sustainability.

XRD: revealing the value of quality control

Any development or production process needs ways to measure quality, and battery materials are no exception. It’s vital to know what’s going on inside those materials to predict the battery’s performance.

X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a non-destructive and versatile technique that can be used to monitor a wide range of parameters, including phase composition, crystallite size and orientation, graphitization, and cation mixing. So, let’s dive into how understanding each of these aspects of your materials adds value to your work.

The phase composition of battery electrode materials has a significant effect on the electrochemical performance and stability of a battery. XRD analysis accurately identifies whether the reactants have transformed into the desired crystalline phase, which is essential for the electrode to function correctly. A precise phase composition ensures that the battery will have the intended capacity and cycle life, as unwanted phases can lead to reduced efficiency and longevity.

Crystallite size, meanwhile, has a direct impact on the rate at which lithium ions can migrate within the battery – influencing both the charging speed and the battery’s overall capacity. Charging speed and capacity are some of the most important factors for consumers, particularly for electric vehicles, so understanding this one is key! Smaller crystallites can enhance ion transport, leading to improved battery performance, especially in high-power applications.

A higher orientation index indicates a more aligned crystalline structure, which facilitates smoother electron flow and denser packing and thereby enhances the energy capacity. For example, the orientation index of graphite particles within the electrode coating affects the energy density and electrical conductivity of the battery.

Synthetic graphite is a common anode material, and the degree of graphitization refers to how well-organized the carbon layers are. Higher graphitization translates to better electrical conductivity and thermal stability, which enable more efficient charging and a more durable, safer battery. This is also an especially important consideration in e-mobility, where safety is paramount for vehicle manufacturers and consumers.

Our final example was cation mixing, which is an effect battery manufacturers want to avoid. In layered oxide cathodes, cation mixing occurs when transition metal ions occupy lithium ion sites, which can significantly degrade a battery’s energy density and cycling stability. Keeping cation mixing at bay is key to maintaining the integrity of the electrode’s crystal structure, so XRD is used to detect and quantify the degree of cation mixing, allowing for corrections as soon as possible.

In-depth analysis, rapid results

Understanding these parameters can have a major impact on your operations – helping to avoid off-specification products and waste, and improving quality and performance. The best part? While a full-scale laboratory instrument has many other uses in battery manufacturing, a compact instrument like the Aeris XRD offers an ideal solution for the rapid, at-line analysis needed in this case. Rather than waiting for laboratory results to come back – possibly resulting in off-spec production or even downtime – Aeris returns results in just a few minutes at a comparable accuracy level.

So, don’t overlook the serious value of XRD in your battery processes – whether you’re researching the next big innovation or producing at speed inside Gigafactory 1. Here’s to the next generation of lean, green machines!

Discover our full range of battery materials analysis instruments here.

Learn more about Aeris, the world’s first compact XRD, here.

Prefer to speak to our expert team about upgrading your processes? Get in touch today – we’d love to hear from you!

Further reading