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"Seeing" inside batteries key to building affordable, longer-lasting electric cars

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Think of it like a toolkit of medical imaging strategies for your car's power system. Instead of taking pictures of the biological changes taking place within the human body, researchers at four Canadian universities are using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, electron microscopy and scanning electrochemical microscopy to see and understand electrochemical changes inside lithium-ion batteries. This is the critical link required by car manufacturers for more widespread vehicle electrification.

The 20-member research team includes university researchers from Ontario and Quebec, as well as General Motors engineers from Oshawa, Ontario and Michigan. Together with the support of Automotive Partnership Canada, they are developing diagnostic tools and techniques to monitor changes—in real time—while the battery is operating.

By understanding the mechanisms that can degrade battery performance, companies can determine what cell components will be compatible and competitive. GM plans to use the results to evaluate new chemistries and how they perform with less expensive and higher energy density materials. Findings from the studies will also feed into the mathematical models GM uses to evaluate how a battery will perform over several years. Read more...