Team of scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory discovered a new method, which allows us to study the way electricity flows through a rechargeable battery. By using transmission electron microscopy, a technique very well known to biologists, who use it to study cells, the scientists at PNNL were able to identify the importance of the coating between the electrode and electrolyte for battery performance.
Improving battery performance has been a main task for the engineering community over the past decade. And rightly so, especially when the whole renewable energy industry depends on effective, and preferably green, energy storage technologies. Innovations in the field are made every day, yet scientists are always able to surprise us with the next incredible finding.
As the lead researcher from PNNL, Chongmin Wang, points out, to date, it has been difficult to note and observe the layer of the solid electrolyte. However, with this new technique, the team was able to closely study the way electrons move through the pores of the electrolyte during charging in order to meet the positive ions in the electrode. With time, this process leads to jamming, or swelling, on the solid electrolyte layer, and causes decrease in battery efficiency.
The scientists are convinced that once they can fully understand how to control and minimize this swelling, they will be able to develop much better rechargeable batteries that would be compatible with the high-performance, single use, non-green alternatives. If what the team claims is true, then thanks to this new method, we might finally have a technology that will not only reduce waste, but also help the renewable energy industry reach new heights.
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