French researchers discover the chemical reactions inside a working battery

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

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A battery is chemistry. It stores and releases energy through reactions that create movement of electrons. But we can’t see what’s going on there: it’s a closed box, and it’s not enough to lift the hood to see what’s going on (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 is powered by infrared light. You have to imagine a wire that enters on one side of the pile, and comes out on the other. And something surprising happens: at the entrance to the battery, the light which passes through the fiber is uniform, but it turns out that at the exit, after crossing the battery, the fiber is scratched. It is as if streaked in a sort of bar code. Part of the infrared light disappeared because it was absorbed by certain molecules inside the battery.

The decryption of this bar code makes it possible to precisely understand the chemical reactions inside the battery and its performance at a 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 batteries so that they are more efficient and better follow their lifespan. Today, it is estimated that a car battery lasts about ten years, but with this technique we can know precisely the state of chemical health of any battery, beyond the statistics. And finally, this technology will also improve the recycling of batteries.

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