That’s how experts call a deviation in the voltage of the battery that can limit the usability of the stored energy as well as the ability to determine the state of charge of the battery reliably.
Scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, and the Toyota Central R&D Labs, Inc. in Japan have now however discovered a memory effect in a lithium-ion battery. This finding is particularly relevant for the use of lithium-ion batteries in the electric vehicle market. The work was published today in the scientific journal Nature Materials.Many of our everyday devices that get their energy supply from a battery, whilst not always being as “smart” as they are described in the adverts, often come equipped with a kind of memory. For example, a battery powered shaver or electric toothbrush that is recharged before the battery runs out, can later take revenge on the prudent user. The battery appears to remember that you have only taken part of its storage capacity – and eventually no longer supplies its full energy. Experts refer to this as a “memory effect“, which comes about because the working voltage of the battery drops over time because of incomplete charging-discharging cycles. This means that despite the battery still being discharged, the voltage it supplies is sometimes too low to drive the device in question. The memory effect therefore has two negative consequences: firstly, the usable capacity of the battery is reduced, and secondly the correlation between the voltage and the charge status is shifted, so the latter cannot be determined reliably on the basis of voltage.
According to Professor Petr Novak, Head of the Electrochemical Energy Storage Section at the PSI and co-author of the publication, the study disproves a long cherished misconception: ”Ours is the first study that has specifically looked for a memory effect in lithium-ion batteries. It had simply been assumed that no such effect would arise“. To acquire knowledge via research is often a fruitful mix of speculation and diligence: “Our finding results from a combination of critical investigation and careful observation. The effect is in fact tiny: the relative deviation in voltage is just a few parts per thousand. But the key was the idea of looking for it at all. Normal battery tests usually run deep, and not partial charging/discharging cycles. It thus took a flash of inspiration in order to ask what might happen during partial charging in the first place.For the future use of lithium-ion batteries in vehicles however, this recent discovery is not the final word. It is indeed absolutely possible that the effect could be detected and taken into account through clever adaptation of the software in battery management systems, Novak pointed out. Should that prove successful, the memory effect would not stand in the way of a reliable use of lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles. So now, engineers face the challenge of finding the correct way of handling the peculiar memory of batteries.
Dagmar Baroke | idw
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