June 26, 2020: Magnetic resonance imaging could be a key resource in developing a new generation of sodium batteries — a possible successor to the current lithium ion batteries — according to research announced in mid-June by the University of Birmingham.
A team, led by Melanie Britton in the university’s School of Chemistry, has developed a technique, with researchers from Nottingham University, that uses MRI scanning to monitor how sodium performs in operando.
The technique, which was developed to detect the movement and deposition of sodium metal ions within a sodium battery, will enable faster evaluation of new battery materials, and help to accelerate this type of battery’s route to market.
Although sodium appears to have many of the properties required to produce an efficient battery, there are challenges in optimizing the performance.
Key among these is understanding how the sodium behaves inside the battery as it goes through its charging and discharging cycle, enabling the points of failure and degradation mechanisms to be identified.
The team also included scientists from the Energy Materials group in the University of Birmingham’s School of Metallurgy and Materials, and from Imperial College London.
“Taking the battery apart introduces internal changes that make it hard to see what the original flaw was or where it occurred. But using the MRI technique we’ve developed, we can actually see what’s going on inside the battery while it is operational, giving us unprecedented insights into how the sodium behaves,” says Britton.
“This technique gives us information into the change within the battery components during the operation of the battery, which are not available to us through other techniques. This will enable us to identify methods for detecting failure mechanisms as they happen, giving us insights into how to manufacture longer life and higher performing batteries.”