by Breanna Draxler
MRIs usually assess human health, but scientists are now using the technology to look at the health of batteries.
A team of scientists from Cambridge, Stony Brook and New York Universities has come up with a way to measure the functionality and safety of batteries with magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.
MRI technology uses magnetic fields and radio frequency fields to create visualizations—usually of brains, hearts, or other soft tissues inside the human body.
In the medical context, metal is a bad thing because the radio frequency fields can’t penetrate it. But for analyzing batteries, this limitation actually proved to be an advantage.
Radio frequency fields can’t go through metal, but they can take very sensitive measurements on its surface. With lithium-ion batteries, for example, an MRI can show the build-up of lithium ions on the battery’s electrodes. These images can be used to determine how safe and functional the battery is. Before now, such analysis wasn’t possible without opening and destroying the battery.
MRIs may also be used to improve on battery technologies to make lighter, safer, more versatile batteries in the future, either by changing the batteries’ design or using different materials. This method may even be used to develop better fuel cells for storing electrochemical power, such as solar. The research was published in Nature Materials on Sunday.
This story was also featured on this week’s episode of How on Earth on KGNU. Check out the podcast of the show at howonearthradio.org