Sensor technology for commercial Lithium-ion batteries finds they can be charged 5 times faster

A direct and precise test of Lithium-ion batteries’ internal temperatures and their electrodes potentials is said to have found that batteries can be safely charged up to five times faster than the current recommended charging limits, according to researchers at WMG at the University of Warwick.

WMG explain that the technology works in-situ during a battery’s normal operation without impeding its performance and it has been tested on standard commercially available batteries.

The technology is said to employ miniature reference electrodes and Fibre Bragg Gratings threaded through bespoke strain protection layer. An outer skin of fluorinated ethylene propylene was applied over the fibre, adding chemical protection from the corrosive electrolyte.

According to WMG, the result is a device that can have direct contact with all the key parts of the battery and withstand electrical, chemical and mechanical stress inflicted during the batteries operation, while still enabling precise temperature and potential readings.

The researchers are hoping this discovery will enable advances in battery materials science, flexible battery charging rates, thermal and electrical engineering of new battery materials/technology and have the potential to help the design of energy storage systems for high performance applications.

In order to avoid overheating, manufacturers have so far stipulated a maximum charging rate or intensity for batteries based on what they think are the crucial temperature and potential levels to avoid.

WMG explain that its new system will allow for direct, precise internal temperature and “per-electrode” status monitoring of Lithium-ion batteries of various formats and destination, without significantly affecting battery performance.

Dr Tazdin Amietszajew, lead researcher, said: “This could bring huge benefits to areas such as motor racing, which would gain obvious benefits from being able to push the performance limits, but it also creates massive opportunities for consumers and energy storage providers. Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life, but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times. Having that flexibility in charging strategies might even – further down the line – help consumers benefit from financial incentives from power companies seeking to balance grid supplies using vehicles connected to the grid.

“This technology is ready to apply now to commercial batteries, but we would need to ensure that battery management systems on vehicles and that the infrastructure being put in for electric vehicles, are able to accommodate variable charging rates that would include these new more precisely tuned profiles or limits.”

Bethan Grylls

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