A Berkeley Lab team has developed an easy, fast, and inexpensive method to measure lithium battery performance.

The new technique uses thermal waves to measure local lithium concentration as a function of depth inside battery electrodes.

A sensor, when placed on top of the battery, sends a signal. The signal frequency determines how deep the thermal wave penetrates.

The “operando” technique works while the reaction is happening. The thermal wave sensing provides the same kind of spatial information of lithium concentration as radiation-based inspection methods like X-ray diffraction, but without having to use a large synchrotron facility such as the Advanced Light Source.

The team is now testing the procedure at the lab scale, and the next step will be testing commercial batteries.

“This work shows the strength of interdisciplinary science,” said Berkeley Lab research scientist Dr. Sean Lubner. “The project combines techniques and insight from the thermal and electrochemistry communities in order to achieve a capability that would not have otherwise been possible.”

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