Maris Saukans successfully completed the Dakar Rally. He reached the finish line in Lima having driven almost 9,000 kilometers – in an electric car. The final ranking didn't matter to the Latvian. The challenge was to complete the route with an electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries and to show how powerful these batteries can be. Consumer electronics is the main area in which the batteries have been used up to now. In order for the batteries to become a viable efficient energy source for electric vehicles in the future, researchers are working on minimizing the aging process and signs of wear.
A battery's power is usually verified using physical measuring methods. A different approach is being taken at Aalen University where researchers are applying microscopy techniques to the study of lithium-ion batteries in small electronic devices. With this type of imaging materials analysis, they can detect details of the design and grain of a structure. Changes in metal oxide, separators and current collectors not only reveal much about the service life, but can also give the researchers some clues as to what ultimately caused the battery to fail.
The optical microscopes from Carl Zeiss allow resolution of these structures down to 100 nanometers; electron microscopes enable even more detailed viewing. These two procedures are being combined in Aalen. The problem is to relocate the specimen area under the electron microscope. Therefore, Carl Zeiss developed “Shuttle & Find”, which links light and electron microscopy via a soft- and hardware interface, allowing a quick changeover from the micro- to the nano-world.
January 25, 2012