A European research project using neutron diffraction in a bid to improve the lifetime of lead batteries for energy storage applications has been launched by research organisation The Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI).
Scientists will study the fundamental processes that govern recharge efficiency and battery electrode failure using a suite of neutron beamline experiments that allows them to view the entire crystal structure of the battery as it operates.
Through a specific focus on battery electrodes, neutron diffraction will be used to study the batteries in operation across different duty cycles.
For energy storage applications, many of which incorporate renewable energy elements, advanced lead batteries operate at partial-state-of-charge (PSoC) and in high depth-of-discharge (DoD), both demanding duty cycles.
The project is being conducted in collaboration with the research institute Instituto de Nanociencia y Materiales de Aragón (INMA) in Spain and battery company Exide Technologies— the European arm of the US company that was sold last year to Atlas Holdings arm of the US firm Exide Technologies.
INMA is a joint institute between Spain's University of Zaragoza and the public research organisation Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
Exide Technologies has an R&D centre near Madrid, Spain.
Director of CBI, Dr Alistair Davidson, said: “The ability to probe battery electrodes in real-time under typical energy storage duty cycles will deliver vital insights into how to enhance performance and the overall lifetime of the battery.
“This information is a critical part of our advanced battery research program, which aims to ensure advanced lead batteries continue to innovate to meet heightened demand for clean, renewable energy storage across the globe”.
Neutron diffraction maps the activity of the entire electrode and electrolyte present in the battery to provide a complete picture of how they change at the micro-level.
Using the technology, the scientists will generate information on how to control the active material and maximise battery life in all applications for advanced lead batteries, a key goal in CBI’s technical roadmap.
In 2019, CBI began a feasibility study to investigate ways to understand the charge/discharge reactions that occur in lead batteries with Exide Technologies and the Aragon Materials Science Institute (renamed as INMA) using neutron diffraction.
That first study was to see if neutron diffraction as a technique could be used in lead battery research, and this is the actual longer-term project using the technique (which hasn’t been used before).
Image: The project uses the NG6 cold neutron imaging instrument at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to provide imaging for the European team of scientists.