Neutron diffraction used for the first time to improve advanced battery performance

Source: press release, 13 January 2020

Exide’s research and development laboratory near Madrid, Spain uses cutting-edge research to produce the next generation of advanced lead batteries – from left, Dr Alistair Davidson, CBI, and Dr Francisco Trinidad, Exide (photo Exide)
Exide’s research and development laboratory near Madrid, Spain uses cutting-edge research to produce the next generation of advanced lead batteries – from left, Dr Alistair Davidson, CBI, and Dr Francisco Trinidad, Exide (photo Exide)

The first battery innovation project in Europe using hi-tech neutron diffraction techniques has been launched in Spain under the Consortium for Battery Innovation’s (CBI) new technical program.

European consortium member Exide Technologies has partnered with the Institute of Materials Science of Aragon (ICMA) to explore fundamental processes occurring inside lead batteries during operation, using neutron diffraction, with the overall objective of improving life cycle and performance. ICMA is a joint institute between one of Spain’s oldest universities, the University of Zaragoza, and the largest public research institution in Spain and third largest in Europe, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

Dr Alistair Davidson, Director of CBI says, “This project, the first to be launched in Europe, demonstrates the the kind of cutting-edge research now being undertaken by the advanced lead battery industry to ensure our reliable and high quality batteries continue to play a central role in delivering Europe’s new Green Deal and support the creation of a climate-neutral continent by 2050.”

“Neutron diffraction probes deeper than x-rays and can provide another perspective into improving the performance of lead batteries. The analysis we’re conducting in Spain will help us develop new high-performing lead batteries.”

Dr Francisco Trinidad, Director Battery Technology of Exide says, “The new project follows a feasibility study which demonstrated the capabilities of this technique in relation to achieving lifetime improvements in lead battery performance. Exide and ICMA’s new research project can facilitate the understanding of processes governing battery failure during operation through neutron diffraction.”

The second stage of this project will be an analysis of the results, opening future opportunities to examine lead batteries using neutron diffraction. By using various techniques to gain a deeper understanding of lead battery performance, research being undertaken by CBI with its members and partners will push the development of this technology in key areas such as lifetime.

CBI’s new technical program aims to increase battery cycle life by 5 times by 2022 to 5,000 cycles for energy storage applications. Cycle life is the ability of a battery to continue working through numerous cycles when it is not fully charged and improving performance in this area would contribute to lower operating cost, a key parameter for utility and renewable energy applications.

For the automotive sector, the highest priority target research goal is to increase DCA by 5 times by the year 2022 to 2 Amps/Ah. DCA, which is the ability of the battery to accept instantaneous energy during charging, for example when braking, will be crucial for maximising the performance of advanced lead batteries in the ever-increasing number of micro and mild-hybrid vehicles on the road.