The electrical connectors used to draw power from lithium ion batteries could be among the components whose design can be improved using findings from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
When it was founded in 1943, the facility was intended to find ways to produce and separate plutonium for use in nuclear weapons, as part of the Manhattan Project.
Now, however, scientists at the laboratory are looking instead at ways to ensure consistent reliability from lithium ion batteries.
In order to do this, they have developed an entirely new technique, electrochemical strain microscopy, which measures volume changes when electrical connectors are attached to the batteries' cathodes to determine how lithium ions flow through them at the nanometre scale.
Nina Balke, lead researcher on the project, says: "Understanding the batteries at this length scale could help make suggestions for materials engineering."
This represents a step forward from existing techniques which measure electrochemical current, as it is too small to register at the nanometre scale.