French researchers discover the chemical reactions inside a working battery

This is a world first: French scientists have found a technique to see what happens inside batteries and electric cells when they are working.

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A battery is chemical. It stores and releases energy through reactions that create movement of electrons. But we cannot see what is happening there: it is a closed box, and it is not enough to lift the hood to see what is happening (like for an engine…). The interest of this French technology: it is precisely to be able to follow the chemical reactions inside a battery, live, but without opening it.

These researchers from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), at the Collège de France, had the idea of ​​passing an optical fiber the size of a hair through a battery. A fiber that works with infrared light. You have to imagine a wire going in one side of the stack and out the other. And something surprising happens: at the input of the battery, the light that passes through the fiber is uniform, but it turns out that at the output, after crossing the battery, the fiber is scratched. It’s like it’s scratched into some kind of barcode. Some of the infrared light disappeared because it was absorbed by certain molecules inside the battery.

Decryption of this barcode allows a precise understanding of the chemical reactions inside the battery and its performance at any given time. This research, which required 4 years of work, has just been published in the journal Nature.

A discovery that is very promising. This technology should make it possible to improve the chemical recipe of the batteries so that they are more efficient, in order to better control their useful life. Today, it is estimated that a car battery lasts about ten years, but with this technique it is possible to know precisely the state of chemical health of any battery, beyond statistics. And finally, this technology will also improve battery recycling.

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