CAR, in collaboration with the Nuclear Reactor Lab, adds neutron depth profiling to its suite of battery characterization

Posted: September 17, 2012

A new facility suitable for Li-ion battery study has been successfully built by professor L. Cao at The Ohio State University Research Reactor (OSURR) where neutrons are used to probe the lithium atoms within the Li-ion batteries.

This facility uses a technique, termed as neutron depth profiling, that applies a beam of neutrons originating in  the OSURR core to a lithium-containing sample inside a high vacuum chamber. One of two isotopes composing the elemental lithium, Li-6, is very sensitive to neutrons. In other words, it will absorb a neutron and split into two charged particles, which then move out of the sample with high speeds. The detection of those escaping charged particles, which are born from below the materials’ surface, reveals not only the number of Li atoms, but also their depth profile. This depth profiling allows one to evaluate the efficiency of lithium-ion transfer in new generation of lithium ion batteries. This measurement technique compliments other multi-scale characterization capabilities for Li-ion batteries at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) and College of Engineering.

The new facility is composed of a neutron collimator, a high vacuum chamber, eight Si detectors and a state-of-the-art digital data acquisition system, for which Cao and two PhD students, Danyal Turkoglu and Pat Mulligan, have been working on since 2010. Cao joined The Ohio State University in 2010. Before joining Ohio State, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Currently, Cao is deploying this exciting technique through collaboration with a team of Ohio State researchers including Shrikant Nagpure (MAE), PhD; professor Marcello Canova (MAE), professor Anne Co (Chemistry), professor Suresh Babu (MSE) and professor Giorgio Rizzoni (MAE). This technique provides significant and crucial input on the design and deployment of new generation of energy storage devices. This goal is in alignment with DOE CEVC industry consortium award and an Ohio State IMR multidisciplinary team building grant for exploring new battery materials.