Crippling Lithium-Ion Battery Flaw Revealed


The first step to solving a problem is diagnosing it, and in this case, a huge step was taken for electric vehicles.

Researchers at Ohio State University discovered that in lithium-ion batteries, lithium-ions accumulate inside a sheet of copper known as the current collector. Lithium-ions should not permanently accumulate on the current collector like this, as they are necessary for battery function, therefore this decreases battery performance, as there will be less lithium-ions available.

This is why discoveries like this are often accidental, because they didn’t think that happened, so they didn’t look for it: “We didn’t set out to find lithium in the current collector, so you could say we accidentally discovered it, and how it got there is a bit of a mystery. As far as we know, nobody has ever expected active lithium to migrate inside the current collector,” according to Bharat Bhushan.

Shrikant Nagpure, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University, conducted this research as part of his doctoral degree.

He collaborated with the university’s Center for Automotive Research and examined worn batteries to discover this with the help of Gregory Downing, a chemist at the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) that happens to be an expert at impurity analysis using NDP (Neutron Depth Profiling).

In this case, the impurity is lithium-ions. The test showed that there was one 1 lithium atom for every 1250 copper atoms in the copper collector. While that is a very small ratio, it is enough to affect performance.

This may be due to the fact that lithium-ion batteries operate using small amounts of lithium. So little that lithium comprises 1.5% to 3% of a li-ion battery’s weight.

While this isn’t a technological advancement per-se, it is an important discovery because scientists can start working on a solution that leads to longer-lasting batteries.

Source: Autoblog Green

Photo Credit: Autoblog Green

About the Author

loves attending and writing about/photographing events, and he writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, automobiles, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography.
  • ‘1 lithium atom for every 1250 copper atoms in the copper collector. While that is a very small ratio, it is enough to affect performance.’

    On the scale of atoms that is a GIGANTENORMOUS ratio. I was just figuring that there’s got to be *some* amount of lithium digging itself some number of copper-atom-layers deep into the copper over time, whether its 1 in quadrillions or billions or whatever. But 1/1250 for the sheet as a whole certainly qualifies as an ‘issue’ in engineering the thing. As you say, once how it happens is understood, an issue could be turned into a feature in future designs.

  • Article is OK. Headline is pretty stupid.

  • zivbnd

    Still shaking my head about that headline. Researchers find one of the reasons that LiIon batteries lose capacity slowly over time. And the headline is, “Crippling Lithium-Ion Battery Flaw Revealed!”
    How about, “LiIon Battery long-term capacity loss partially explained!”
    But I guess that wouldn’t get the page hits….

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