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New technology ushers in new era of battery testing

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Posted May 11, 2018

New advances are set to revolutionize battery technology, making them safer and more efficient.

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have enjoyed a surge in popularity thanks to their many benefits and applications. Li-ion batteries have a range of applications including emergency power backup, electric vehicle power, lightweight marine motor power and solar power storage, and many more.

The increased demand for Li-ion batteries gave way to more prodding and tests, which aim to maximize the material. To improve the reliability of Li-ion batteries, studies are being conducted to determine capacity loss and potential shortcomings. Also, this would help pinpoint the threshold of the batteries and estimate its battery life.

The traditional battery testing involves testing capacity, internal resistance, and self-discharge. According to Battery University, the tests could include voltage reading, measuring the internal resistance by a pulse or AC impedance method, coulomb counting, and knowing the Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy.

Li-ion is best tested when charge efficiency is at 99 percent. On the other hand, cold temperature tests the resilience and performance of batteries. When subjected to freezing conditions, good batteries can still function, but charge acceptance is reduced. Li-ion batteries are not advised to be subjected to below-freezing temperatures.

Discharge testing can also be used. In this method, the battery must be taken out of service for approximately two days in order for it to completely discharge. One of the caveats of this test is that it is time-consuming.

EC&M reports that batteries, due to continued usage, are subjected to wear and tear on a constant basis. This means deterioration, corrosion and drying out are part of its lifespan. However, a new technology is changing the way how battery testing is done.

Elcora’s advanced battery testing method

Elcora Advanced Materials (TSXV:ERA.V, NASDAQ:ECORF) is a vertically integrated graphite and graphene producer, which can supply the world’s need for high-quality graphite and graphene. Elcora has its own production process from mining, refining, processing, and manufacturing, to development of applications to ensure only high-quality graphite and graphene are produced.

Their strict adherence to top quality graphite and graphene earned them deals with world-renowned companies such as Lockheed Martin and Elephant Red.

“The future of renewable energy is here and Elcora is leading the way in producing clean graphite for the energy storage market,” Vice-President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin Canada Rosemary Chapdelaine reveals.

On the other hand, Elephant Red invested a total of $1 million in Elcora to boost plans of mass producing industrial materials with graphene coatings.

Now, the company has launched a new service aimed to level up battery testing.

Elcora can now determine the volume change while a battery is being charged or discharged through its battery in-situ volume expansion testing. This is a potential game-changer in the industry. Experts at Elcora have developed the technology based on the studies conducted by Dr. Jeff Dahn entitled, “An Apparatus for the Study of In Situ Gas Evolution in Li-Ion Pouch Cells.”

Dahn is also credited for identifying the impact of columbic efficiency to the battery’s life cycle. If columbic efficiency is increased, it could cut the time and expenses required for future testing of new automotive and stationary batteries.

This method also helps companies pass compliance and regulations. It helps determine the electrolyte decomposition of batteries that could lead to battery failure. The introduction of electrolyte additives can help reverse electrolyte decomposition, which in turn helps improve the safety of batteries.

The nature of a battery is that it contracts while being discharged while the opposite happens when it is being charged. Knowing the capacity or up to what measurement a battery can contract or expand is crucial information for product engineers. In vehicles, they can properly manufacture battery compartments that allow size changes, and it could improve safety and performance of the overall vehicle as well.

As of the moment, no other company is offering the same services as Elcora aside from Dr. Hahn who uses it in his lab in Canada and is closely tied with Tesla.

The battery testing market has not enjoyed popularity until now. Only a handful of companies are offering this type of service, and they are more often than not using the traditional method. The use of Li-ion batteries in major industries such as aerospace, marine, electric vehicles, mobile gadgets, and phones will depend on the reliability of these batteries.

The TÜV SÜD conducts battery tests upon requests from clients. Among the services it offers are battery life cycle testing, battery abuse testing, battery performance testing, battery environmental testing, battery durability testing, battery transport testing and impact test for electric vehicle batteries.

Smithers PIRA is also one of the companies that offer battery testing. Their method is based on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations. What is unknown to a lot of people is that rechargeable and non-rechargeable lithium-ion and lithium polymer cells are categorized as dangerous by the United Nations. As such, tampering with or conducting tests with these batteries require expertise and proper use of tools and technology.

When neglected, battery issues could make or break a company. Such as what happened with Samsung Note 7’s exploding batteries. The company attributes the mishaps to irregularly sized batteries that overheated and rushed replacement batteries. TechRadar notes that this issue cost Samsung an estimated amount of $5 billion due to recalls.

Samsung mobile head DJ Koh hopes the incident could spark interest in further development of Li-ion batteries. “I wish [that] this serves as an opportunity to improve the safety of lithium-ion not only for Samsung but for the entire industry,” he added.

While others may be offering battery testing, only Elcora offers its own technology and niche analysis technique, which can be bundled with the graphite products it manufactures.

The future looks promising for the Li-ion battery industry. Companies such as Elcora are leading the efforts in harnessing technology to improve battery usage. Soon, the world will rely on safe, effective and efficient batteries in lieu of coal-powered energy sources.

Written by Anna Reyes

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