Atomic-level images reveal the reason behind exploding batteries

Atomic-level images reveal the reason behind exploding batteries

A research project aiming to find the reason behind exploding batteries has analyzed atomic-level images of dendrites. The research team noted that these dendrites are capable of penetrating the battery compartments and this process fails the battery. The project team used cryo-electron microscopy to figure out the reason behind failing batteries.

Cryo-electron microscopy is a technique that involves firing electron beams at frozen proteins to ascertain the structure of their molecules. A team of scientists from Stanford University and the SLAC National Laboratory worked on the current project. The research team informed, “With cryo-EM, you can look at a material that’s fragile and chemically unstable and you can preserve its pristine state—what it looks like in a real battery—and look at it under high resolution.”

“Electron beams physically damage biomolecules, but freezing them, the 'cryo' part of cryo-EM, protects them from electron damage and prevents them from getting dehydrated in the electron microscope's vacuum chamber. This tool can help us understand what different electrolytes do and why certain ones work better than others,” said researcher Yanbin Li.

As majority of handheld and portable gadgets use batteries, exploding or failing batteries present a strong challenge. The research team noticed that the crystalline dendrites prefer to grow in particular directions.

The research team added a chemical used to boost battery performance. With addition of battery performance booster, the atomic structure of the SEI coating became more orderly. This could be the reason behind effectiveness of this chemical, the research team informed.