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New development could improve battery and fuel cell performance

A team led by engineers from University of Washington has developed a nanoscale probe, which they say could lead to a better understanding of how batteries work and hence, improved performance of batteries and fuel cells.

Professor Jiangyu Li and his colleagues at UW developed the probe in order to get a better understanding of how chemical reactions progress at the level of atoms and molecules. Similar to atomic force microscopies, a tiny cantilever senses the material and builds a map of its properties.

This device identifies Vergard strain-induced vibrations and can extrapolate the concentration of ions and electronic defects near the tip of the probe. This approach is superior to other types of atomic microscopy that use voltage perturbations to generate a response, according to Li. This is because voltage can produce a wide range of responses, making it difficult to discern which part of the response is related to shifts in ionic and electronic defect concentration. Thermal responses are easier to identify, however the nanoscale has slower probe rates than other devices, said the researcher.

Image source: University of Washington

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