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What happens inside Li-ion batteries when they overheat?

30 Apr 2015

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In contrast, the battery without an internal support exploded causing the entire cap of the battery to detach and its contents to eject. Prior to thermal runaway, the tightly packed core collapsed, increasing the risk of severe internal short circuits and damage to neighbouring objects.

Corresponding author, Dr. Paul Shearing (UCL Chemical Engineering), said: "Although we only studied two commercial batteries, our results show how useful our method is in tracking battery damage in 3D and in real-time. The destruction we saw is very unlikely to happen under normal conditions as we pushed the batteries a long way to make them fail by exposing them to conditions well outside the recommended safe operating window. This was crucial for us to better understand how battery failure initiates and spreads. Hopefully from using our method, the design of safety features of batteries can be evaluated and improved."

The team now plans to study what happens with a larger sample size of batteries and in particular, they will investigate what changes at a microscopic level cause widespread battery failure.

This study was funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and National Physical Laboratory. The 'beam time' to conduct these experiments was provided by the ESRF.


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