Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere. With twice the energy density of the standard battery, these highly efficient energy storage cells power everything from portable electronics to automobiles to industrial equipment and grid storage systems.
While the market for lithium-ion batteries continues to grow at double-digit rates, the challenge is developing batteries that are safer, longer-lasting, and lighter weight. To help with this research, many scientists are turning to micro-computer tomography (microCT), a powerful, non-destructive tomography technique that enables researchers to see the interior of objects, just as doctors examine the inside the human body with CT scans, but at microscale.
Thanks to tools such as our HeliScan, researchers can scan large volumes of data using a helical trajectory and iterative reconstruction technology. With one continuous scan, the HeliScan can build a high-resolution 3D model of the entire battery. In fact, it’s the only microCT scanner on the market to do so without stitching together images.
Using microCT in combination with other techniques such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Raman spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and advanced 3D visualization and analysis software, researchers can obtain the important structural and chemical information they need to build better batteries.
By comparing the interior of a full and discharged lithium-ion battery using microCT, researchers saw that the center cylinder shifted slightly, causing the battery to fail over time.
MicroCT is typically the first step in the correlative workflow, providing researchers with information about the interior structure of the battery and helping them to spot manufacturing defects and deformations that can occur over time. For example, researchers can see the possible defects of metal foil current collectors that support the anode and cathode. They can measure the distances between the anode and cathode to see if both components are positioned correctly. And they can compare new and used batteries to determine how the foils deform and delaminate as the battery is continually used.
By combining this information with SEM images and other techniques, researchers can obtain a complete picture of the structural and chemical properties of batteries. They can learn how different components fail as the battery is used. And they can explore how lithium migrates from the electrode to the anode and back again as the battery is repeatedly discharged and recharged.
How has microCT impacted your work? Let us know in the comments.
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Dirk Laeveren is Product Marketing Manager, Electron Microscopy at Thermo Fisher Scientific.