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Researcher develops innovative way to look inside lithium ion batteries

Rapid testing of the particles inside a lithium ion battery at the nano scale wins Audrey Taylor a Mitacs award.

November 24, 2020   by PLANT STAFF

BURNABY, BC — A researcher at Simon Fraser University has come up with a way to improve lithium ion batteries needed for electric vehicles by creating tools to see inside of them.

Audrey Taylor was to be recognized for her work with a Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — PhD at a virtual ceremony Nov. 24.

Mitacs is a national innovation organization that works with academic institutions to conduct research.

Taylor — working under Professor Byron Gates in the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University — has developed a high tech tool for rapid testing of the particles inside a lithium ion battery at the nano scale to maximize battery performance and longevity.

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She applied the same method used in examining biological specimens but in place of a knife, Taylor used a diamond blade to cut the hard ceramic-like battery into ultra-thin slices.

“Lithium ion batteries represent an emerging field and, therefore, we need new techniques to study them at the atomic level,” said Taylor, who was able to obtain 60 nanometre thick cross-sections of particles 20 microns wide on one sample for viewing under a transmission electron microscope. The diameter of a human hair is roughly 70,000 nanometres or 70 microns thick.

Her method is now being used by Burnaby, BC-based Nano One Materials Corp. to produce low cost, high performance cathode powders used in lithium ion batteries.

“Nano One needed a quick way to inspect the protective coatings it was developing to improve the performance and longevity of lithium ion batteries,” Taylor said. “Using our methodology, they can quickly obtain high resolution imaging of their coatings, which in turn leads to faster research and development turnaround.”

She said the tool can also be used to understand what’s happening at a battery’s end of life.

“The more we know about what’s happening inside the batteries, the better we can prevent adverse events and ensure high performance.”

Mitacs is funded by federal and provincial governments.

 


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