17.08.2023 | Material science

Watching batteries at work with new high-tech methods

The Erich Schmid Institute for Material Sciences of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Leoben can significantly expand its infrastructure for precision measurements on batteries, fuel cells and microelectronic systems thanks to a new grant of 1.4 million euros. This will enable high-precision investigations of the interfaces between the materials involved in working systems for the first time in Austria.

© ÖAW/Klaus Pichler

Whether powerful rechargeable batteries, efficient hydrogen fuel cells or microchips made of novel semiconductors: Many technologies that we will need to meet the great challenges of our time are based on the complex interaction of several modern materials. The properties of such systems often depend on a large number of physical and chemical parameters whose mutual interaction has hardly been researched yet.

1.4 million euros for Austrian material science

In the CEMPER project (Correlative Chemical, Electrical, and Mechanical Properties of operational Energy-Related materials) the Erich Schmid Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences with partners from the Montanuniverstät Leoben, researchers are working to change this. The project is funded by Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) with 1.4 million euros.

To better understand the properties of materials and the interfaces between them, a variety of high-precision measurement methods are needed, ideally performed under very cold conditions. For example, to experimentally evaluate the mechano-chemical incompatibilities of interfaces in lithium batteries, the chemistry must be studied at the atomic level.

"We are very pleased about the funding from the FFG. This will allow us to significantly improve the infrastructure at the institute and, for the first time in Austria, enable investigation of operational systems at both the nanometer and micrometer scales, while precisely controlling the extreme environmental conditions," says materials scientist Megan Cordill form the Austrian Academy of Sciences. As a result, advanced high-resolution techniques such as multiscale electron microscopy and atomic probe tomography, which result in room-temperature destruction of the materials under study, can be used in the future without compromising the function of the systems being analyzed.

View into charging batteries

By combining advanced microscopy techniques with innovative testing and analysis methods being developed at the Academy institute, parallel information can be gathered on the microstructure, chemistry, and electrical and nanomechanical properties in deployable energy systems. The FFG funding will enable the construction of a new workstation with chemical, microstructural, mechanical and electrical probes as well as an associated strongly cooled transfer system to interface with the aforementioned high-resolution investigation techniques.

This extraordinary combination enables the analysis of numerous physical and chemical parameters with unprecedented accuracy, which is especially crucial for the study of batteries, flexible electronics and fuel cells. For example, it will be possible to study the thermo-electro-chemo-mechanical processes within individual electrodes and separators in batteries as well as the interfaces between these components during operation on the micro- and nanoscale.