The integration of smart functionalities is one of three overarching research themes suggested in the newly released BATTERY 2030+ roadmap.
“Hopefully, the fully operational smart battery will see the light of day within a ten-year period”, says Professor Robert Dominko.
Integration of smart functionalities will enhance the lifetime and safety of batteries. BATTERY 2030+ suggests two different and complementary approaches; the development of sensors probing chemical and electrochemical reactions directly at battery cell level, and the use of self-healing functionalities to restore lost functionality within an operational battery cell.
“Each battery chemistry has different degradation mechanisms, and even if it’s better to act proactively and design interfaces which are stable, batteries are used in different conditions. Additional smart functionalities will make them more reliable. Sensing can also provide more data for improvement and further developments”, says Robert Dominko, Head of the battery group at the National Insititute of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science at the University of Ljubljana.
He is one of the researchers behind research into sensing and self-healing ideas as a way to address key challenges such as the degradation and life time of batteries.
One of the main challenges within the domain is connected to harsh conditions in the battery environment, where sensors and self-healing functionalities have to last for many years.
“Our proposed disruptive approach to meet these challenges is to inject smart embedded sensing technologies and functionalities into the battery. The sensors should be capable of monitoring changes detrimental to battery life”, says Robert Dominko.
Injecting smart functionalities into the battery will include the integration and development of various sensing technologies previously used in other sectors, such as the automotive and medical industries, to transmit information out of the cells. For the successful implementation of the sensing tools in a battery, sensors will have to be adapted to the targeted battery environment in terms of chemical stability, size and manufacturing constraints, including recyclability.
“Within a ten-year horizon, the development of new sensors with high sensitivity, high accuracy, and low cost offers the possibility of access to a fully operational smart battery”, says Robert Dominko.
What motivates you to engage in this area of research?
“Batteries are not considered to be the most reliable devices and it’s difficult to monitor their lifetime quality. Introducing smart functionalities into cells can significantly improve their acceptance, and make them more affordable and predictable. That will impact the lifespan and less recycling will be needed due to longer use in the primary application and a more predictable second life. All that is my primary motivation, besides the fact that I am always motivated by research problems that are close to science fiction”.