Industry partners with University of California in nanoscale study on advanced batteries

Source: press release, 27 July 2020

This image of Pb dendrite growth and collapse were acquired in real time with a transmission electron microscope – certain nucleation sites consistently nucleate larger dendrites
This image of Pb dendrite growth and collapse were acquired in real time with a transmission electron microscope – certain nucleation sites consistently nucleate larger dendrites (photo: Regan Research Group, see doi:10.1021/nn3017469)

A team of scientists from the University of California is set to unlock the inner workings of lead batteries with the help of nanoscale technology.

Working with the Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI), the new industry-academia partnership based in Los Angeles will explore the fundamental processes occurring inside lead batteries as part of the Consortium’s plans to deliver performance improvements in the technology for the growing automotive and utility grid storage sectors.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will use an innovative implementation of Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM) that allows researchers to observe the crystallisation and dissolution of the phases involved in the charge and discharge of a lead battery during operation at the nanoscale.

This pioneering work, spanning 18 months, will provide deeper understanding into sustaining these materials to deliver improved battery performance and longer lifetimes.

Professor Chris Regan, who leads the research team from UCLA says, “Lead batteries have been a mainstay technology for more than 100 years, but there is a significant amount that is still to be understood about the fundamental reactions occurring in this chemistry. We believe this new technique will help unlock new technological data to improve the performance potential.”

Dr Alistair Davidson, Director of CBI, says, “This kind of fundamental research is key to designing the next generation of advanced lead batteries. As demand grows for ever more sophisticated and high-performance rechargeable batteries, we are ensuring that the science supports new innovation.”

Rapid technological advances and falling costs for installed grid battery storage underpin predictions that energy storage in the US alone will reach 100 GW of new energy storage by 2030. By providing flexibility for the grid and protecting against vulnerabilities, the role of batteries is central to the transition to low-carbon energy systems across the globe.

As the world’s only pre-competitive lead battery research hub, research undertaken by the Consortium has a ripple effect allowing its global membership of battery manufacturers, recyclers, material suppliers and testing institutes to benefit from new insights gained through its extensive suite of technical projects.

As demand continues apace for high-performing batteries for clean mobility and more reliable utility grid storage, CBI is undertaking ground-breaking research to continue to push the boundaries of advanced lead battery technology, building on the key research goals set out in its technical roadmap.

For more information see doi:10.1021/nn3017469.