Scientists Develop MRI-Based Technique to Test Inside of Batteries

Scientists from Cambridge University, New York University and Stony Brook University have developed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based method to examine a battery. This new method can potentially enhance the performance of the battery and safety by studying its internal functioning.

MRI is normally not used in the presence of a metal, which is a primary part in several batteries, as the conducting surfaces obstruct the radio frequency fields, which are utilized in MRI. As it is well known, MRI has been highly successful in the field of medicine for viewing disorders and examining the body’s response to treatment.

However, the researchers have been able to sensitively measure the conductors’ surfaces, because the metals are not penetrated by these radio frequency fields. For instance, the research team directly visualized the deposits of lithium metal on the electrodes of the lithium-ion batteries, after charging the battery. Those lithium deposits may get separated from the surface and can lead to battery failure, overheating, explosion or fire.

Alexej Jerschow, the head of a multi-disciplinary MRI research laboratory and a professor at New York University’s Department of Chemistry, stated that new electrolyte materials and electrodes are being created. This MRI technology can offer insights to the microscopic methods inside batteries and make the batteries safer, lighter, and more versatile. This method is used for viewing electrode and electrolyte surfaces and offers a detailed picture of the performance-limiting techniques of batteries.

Clare Grey, Northeastern Center for Chemical Energy Storage’s associate director and a professor at Stony Brook and Cambridge universities stated that MRI can possibly find the location of chemical species present inside the battery without taking it out.

The research team has visualized that this MRI technique can possibly lead to the study of cracks and irregularities on conducting surfaces in the field of material sciences. The developed techniques can be of high value for improved performance of the battery and in the testing of other electrochemical devices like fuel cells.

This research was financially supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.



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