International Leader in Battery Cell Analytics

Division: Analytics & Environment
© WWU / MEET

The properties of a battery are determined primarily by the chemical and electrochemical processes occurring inside. The challenge is to gain exact knowledge and understanding of the self-enclosed, sensitive battery cell system, as well as of the composition of the containing materials and of the occurring reactions and mechanisms. Only then is it possible to assess and optimise existing battery cells and develop sustainable battery technologies for the future.

Since 2009, this has been the task of our researchers in the research area Analytics & Environment at MEET Battery Research Center at the University of Münster. With its focus on lithium-ion technology – and its outstanding methodological competence – the MEET team is one of the international leaders in battery cell analytics. Promising new technologies such as solid-state batteries are also investigated in the MEET laboratories.

© MEET/Judith Kraft

Comprehensive Analytics for Batteries and the Environment

Analytical chemistry is at the centre of the research area’s methodology, providing a great deal of information through qualitative and quantitative studies. Battery analytics present researchers with special challenges of a highly complex nature: handling strongly reactive samples from the self-enclosed, highly energetic battery system; examining batteries while they are in operation; dealing with many simultaneously occurring ageing processes inside a battery; or investigating possible discrepancies between laboratory, industrial or production scales.

Our researchers take a close look at the entire value creation chain of the battery: from the raw materials, cell production, formation and cyclisation to post-mortem examinations and recycling and second-life approaches. In addition, the researchers study the impact which batteries have on the animate and inanimate environment, providing data for toxicological assessments – for example, with regard to work safety. Another focus of the team lies on the mechanistic elucidation of processes inside the battery.

By carrying out thoroughly comprehensive analyses, our researchers gain in-depth knowledge which they use as a basis for making significant improvements not only to the performance and lifetime of these electrochemical storage devices, but also to their safety and sustainability.
Dr. Sascha Nowak, Division Manager Analytics & Environment at MEET
  • Outstanding Distinctive Analytical Competencies

    The MEET team’s competencies do not only cover basic research – they go way beyond the application of analytical methods in the highly complex and sensitive field of battery research. Our researchers have developed numerous analytical methods, for instance, which make it possible to answer previously unanswerable questions and, as a result, leave a lasting mark on battery research. For example, the team was able to make a far-reaching revision of our understanding of the decomposition of the conducting salt lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6) and, building on this, discover various reactions involving other components of the electrolyte.

    Specialised methods for a multifaceted analysis of various processes and battery-related questions have also been developed at the MEET Battery Research Center:

    • SEI and CEI interphases (formation, composition, dynamics)
    • Dissolution, migration and deposition of transition metals
    • Electrolyte aging (conducting salt, solvent, additives, ionic liquids)
    • Lithium distribution, pre-lithiation
    • Material aging (anodes, cathodes, current collectors, separators)
    • Visualisation of aging processes (imaging)
    • Elucidation of reaction pathways and mechanisms (including by means of isotope labelling)
    • Recycling (electrolyte recovery, resynthesis of active material, performance tests, alternative methods: phytoremediation)
    • Participation inround robin tests, involvement in DIN and ISO activities, reference materials

    For the analytics carried out in this research area we use ultramodern chromatographical, thermoanalytical, spectroscopic, spectrometric, electrochemical and imaging processes.

    © MEET/Nowak

    The repertoire includes basic research on greatly simplified systems, methodology transfer from other disciplines to the challenging battery environment, and current applications such as the examination of batteries already used in electric vehicles. Isotope labelling and high-resolution mass spectrometry are also used, for example to provide very precise qualitative and quantitative evidence of decomposition products in a battery.

    There is another special feature of the MEET research team: coupling techniques allow the advantages of individual pieces of equipment to be used synergistically. This results in a lot of information being collected in the analyses carried out, and therefore, volatile or gaseous, liquid and solid samples can be observed with regards to their species information and elemental composition. It also provides an opportunity to use imaging processes to observe things from – quite literally – a different angle.