Scientists at The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have set out to discover how the lifespan, safety and sustainability of lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries can be improved by studying every aspect of the battery life cycle.
“When a battery is continuously charged and discharged, undesirable side reactions inevitably also take place,” explains Professor Hans Jürgen Seifert from the Institute of Applied Materials (Physics) at KIT in a . “When this adversely affects their behaviour, we speak of degradation or ageing. You can't prevent it completely, but you can delay and mitigate it through appropriate cell design.” Seifert’s team will investigate the factors which cause decomposition in the reactive electrolyte. Thermodynamic modelling and precise calorimetric measurements will be employed to do this.
Meanwhile, KIT’s Institute of Mechanical Process Engineering and Mechanics (MVM) will focus on the design of more recyclable batteries and raw material cycles. A group of researchers under Professor Hermann Nirschl will look into mechanical methods for recycling to replace or complement conventional pyrometallurgical methods. Innovative techniques such as applying shockwaves, ultrasound and wet grinding will be assayed.
Improving battery safety is also a concern. Critical defects such as those caused by the accumulation of metallic lithium in the anode can lead to loss of capacity, short circuiting and even cell fire. This aspect will be handled by an electrical engineering team at the institute.
The project has emerged from the newly-created battery research clusters "greenBatt" and "BattNutzung" under the umbrella initiative Research Factory Battery, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The ultimate aim is to decrease Germany’s reliance upon imported lithium-ion batteries and to support the growth of electromobility.