A discovery made by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) can eventually make lithium ion batteries cheaper by improving a key process that currently takes a lot of time to complete: filling the batteries with liquid electrolyte.
The porous electrodes inside modern rechargeable batteries have to be properly filled with liquid electrolyte. Actually, the electrolyte has to access most of the micrometer-sized pores for the battery to be efficient and profit from the very large surface area that the porous structure has.
High-energy batteries used in the automotive industry use electrolytes that in their natural form are not suited for entering such thin spaces and therefore need complex energy and time consuming vacuum processing or high temperatures for achieving acceptable results.
The new technique developed at KIT reduces the time needed for the electrolyte to enter the electrodes’ pores from a few hours to a few minutes by mimicking naturally-occurring processes in trees and plants.
To achieve that, they modified the electrodes through a “mechanico-chemical technology” which allows for the electrolyte to get sucked into the pores just like water gets sucked into high trees.
The team also revealed that their technique will quickly be applied into current battery manufacturing facilities around Europe and that they have already applied for a patent.
Besides shortening the production time, the new technology also improves the batteries’ efficiency and performance, the German scientists say. Their latest developments will be shown at the eCarTec International Electromobility Fair in Munich for two days starting tomorrow. Their location will be in hall A5, stand 323 – for those who wish to visit and ask a few questions.