Smart sensing and self-healing functionalities
Smart batteries and intelligent functionalities are key to next-generation technologies. The development of smart battery cells and intelligent functionalities has been a little-explored concept but – if brought to fruition – would enable the realisation of safer and more durable battery chemistries.
Smart batteries are based on new high-resolution embedded sensor concepts (with a degree of refinement far beyond anything available today) monitoring complex reactions in the battery. This approach can draw inspiration from the field of medical science by developing self-healing concepts to extend battery lifetime and enable the most challenging ultrahigh-performance batteries to be realised in practice.
Real-time cell monitoring is invaluable to researchers and engineers, but to truly extend battery lifetime and performance, degradation mechanisms must also be addressed as they occur. Intelligent functionalities including battery self-healing (BSH) capabilities are essential to this effort.
Both sensing and self-healing functionalities are intimately linked, as batteries with longer lifetimes lead to greater sustainability. Our ultimate vision of smart batteries intimately integrates these two functions. The detected signals from the sensors will be sent to the battery management system (BMS) and analyzed which, in case of problems, will emit a signal to the actuator for triggering the stimulus of the self-healing process. This game-changing approach will bring QRL to its maximum together with user confidence and improved safety conditions.
This far-reaching goal is not only ambitious but also motivating since nowadays there is no coherent European research effort on battery self-healing, hence the need to create this community by bridging different disciplines so as to benefit from their knowledge and practice.
The BATTERY 2030+ roadmap will not rely solely on autonomous self-healing tools (self-healing polymers, liquid-metal alloys, et cetera), but it will go beyond and enlist the implementation of 3D porous multifunctional materials-composites, capsules, supramolecular species or polymers capable of receiving specific molecules and releasing them on demand by physical or chemical stimuli to repair the "tissue" that constitutes the electrode/electrolyte or particle/particle interfaces.
In ten-year horizon, the development of new sensors with high efficiency and low cost offer the possibility to access to a full operational smart battery. The integration of this new technology at the pack level with an efficient BMS with a real active connection to the self-healing function is the objective of the roadmap for the BATTERY 2030+.
In short term: Establish formats and standards of a shared BIG-MAP data infrastructure for closed loop materials discovery; Autonomous analysis modules for experiments and simulations results using AI; Computational workflows to identify and pass features between scales; Data-driven materials and interface models guided by physical understanding.
In medium term: Implementation of the autonomous BIG-MAP platform capable of integrating computational modelling, autonomous synthesis robotics and materials characterization; Demonstrate inverse design of battery materials and interphases; Integration of sensing and self-healing in BIG-MAP.
In long term: Fully autonomous and chemistry neutral BIG-MAP platform establish and demonstrated; Integration of battery cell assembly and device-level testing; Inclusion of manufacturability and recyclability in the materials discovery process; Digital twin for ultra-high throughput testing on cell level implemented and validated.
How does self-healing work?
Self-healing of scars, tissues and bones is taken for granted in human bodies. Modern medicine has found a way to leverage these processes to treat diseases. There is a very active underlying science, combining principles from biology, materials, and engineering disciplines, for accelerating the healing process, using natural or synthetic materials. New ideas for polymers that could self-heal cracked surfaces via H-bonding or chemical healing are now emerging. However, the battery community has so far neglected this field. There is great potential for developing supramolecular architectures, which could be physically or chemically cross-linked to heal the electrochemically driven growth of cracks/ fissures in electrode materials.
Developing a battery self-healing process is therefore certainly among the most-far reaching and challenging issues today. Numerous approaches exist for administering drugs or nanomedicine to humans to treat diseases. Usually, during drug delivery and absorption, the active molecule must pass several biological membranes. Transport processes across these membranes are regulated by chemical or physical stimuli that are very similar to the processes in batteries. An interesting conceptual analogy is to compare the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI), which results from parasitic deposits that can block the Li-ion transport in a battery, to a cholesterol deposit within an artery that clogs blood flow. Implementing self-healing mechanisms in batteries will require strong synergies between electrochemists, biologists and biomedical researchers in the years to come. Battery 2030+ could be the vehicle to launch this revolutionary approach.
To succeed, this initiative should aim to support strong research and development collaborations on battery sensing and self-healing. By bringing the battery community together with academic and industrial partners with sensing expertise, a holistic approach could be taken to facilitate success in this field. It should also attract the biomedical community and benefit their practice to accelerate the development of novel self-healing mechanisms. An intimate synergy between intelligent battery management systems and self-healing capabilities will further secure success, and enable Europe to lead the world in sustainable technology development.