Advanced energy materials research requires insights down to the nanoscale

(Nanowerk News) Fuel cells and electrical energy storage systems are increasingly emerging as the core elements for new mobility concepts and for forward-looking building energy management. In recognition of this, EWE Research Centre NEXT ENERGY will be placing particular emphasis on concepts and results during its presentation at this year‘s Hannover Messe. The Oldenburg energy researchers are to be found in Hall 27 at Stand D55 at the joint “Group Exhibit Hydrogen + Fuel Cells + Batteries” stand from 7th to 11th April 2014.
Several groups are working in different research topics at NEXT ENERGY towards intelligent solutions for integrated energy systems. This interdisciplinary modus operandi allows for an integrated approach to research under the roof of a single institute.
nano-computed tomography
Example of a non-destructive examination: An inside view allows the condition of the safety mechanisms of a commercial 18650 cell to be analysed.
“Up until now, it was usually a case of ‚battery or fuel cell‘. Nowadays, though, ‚battery and fuel cell‘ is appropriate for most applications”, says Dr Alexander Dyck, Head of the Fuel Cells Division at NEXT ENERGY.
Rather than being mutually exclusive, the potential for professional and technical synergies can be utilised in, for example, materials research.
“In particular, the three core components are the same: anode, cathode and electrolyte. Despite major differences in the details, the porous materials have similar structure-property relationships, and they exhibit very similar requirement profiles within systems for various applications”, explains Dyck, mentioning as an example the automobile with a service life of more than ten years and 5,000 operating hours. “To achieve this, reliability within systems must be ensured through technical expertise.”
In order to match a technology optimally to the application in question, the EWE Research Centre NEXT ENERGY employs high-resolution micro- and nano-computed tomography (CT) systems in the field of materials research. Combining these techniques with scanning electron and atomic force microscopy allows us to conduct a full range of optical investigations.
“This comprehensive analysis of complex structures is necessary because, for example, the performance and durability of electrochemical storage systems is influenced by the properties of the finest structures extending down to the nanometre scale”, explains Dr Wedigo von Wedel, Head of the Energy Storage Division at NEXT ENERGY. “Micro- and nano-CT enable us to obtain and evaluate qualitative and quantitative spatial information about the structure and behaviour of membranes, gas diffusion layers and materials for energy storage and conversion systems.”
The equipment and longstanding expertise on hand in the NEXT ENERGY laboratories yield CT images with resolutions of 25 micrometres to 150 nanometres per pixel. This makes it possible to generate three-dimensional views and animations of, for example, particle assemblies or pore networks from the inner workings of batteries and fuel cells. At the Hannover Messe, the energy researchers from Oldenburg will be showing for the first time their 3D model of a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) in order to illustrate, amongst other things, the layer structures on a comprehensible scale. This exhibit represents fibre composites and pores with dimensions of around two micrometres as meshes with the thickness of a thumb and thus conveys a better understanding of the transport and contact surfaces inside the layer composites.
Source: EWE-Forschungszentrum für Energietechnologie
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