New Battery Imaging Method May Create a Better Future for Renewable Energy

First Posted: Apr 21, 2015 09:46 AM EDT

A new method could improve energy storage of everything from portable electronics to electric microgrids. Scientists have developed a new X-ray imaging technique to visualize and study the reactions in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries containing a new type of material called iron fluoride.

"Iron fluoride has the potential to triple the amount of energy a conventional lithium-ion battery can store," said Song Jin, one of the researchers, in a news release. "However, we have yet to tap its true potential."

In the past, researchers weren't able to exactly understand what was happening to iron fluoride during battery reactions, since the battery components got in the way of the image. Now, though, a new technique has allowed scientists a better look, which may allow them to develop better batteries.

Scientists worked together to perform experiments with the transmission X-ray microscope. They collected chemical maps from actual coin cell batteries filled with iron fluoride during battery cycling in order to determine how well they performed.

By examining iron fluoride transformation in batteries at the nanoscale, scientists have now determined what may cause a few of the problems in the batteries. Using iron fluoride in rechargeable lithium ion batteries has caused them to not recharge very well, for example. In addition, iron fluoride battery materials don't discharge as much energy as they take in, reducing energy efficiency.

"In analyzing the X-ray data on this level, we were able to track the electrochemical reactions with far more accuracy than previous methods, and determined that iron fluoride performs better when it has a porous microstructure," said Linsen Li, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The researchers believe that the new observations could help design better batteries for the future. This could help revolutionize the energy industry.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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