Understanding the ageing mechanism of batteries to improve cycle life at high temperature
05 Apr 2024
- Alison Oliver



Echion Technologies Ltd, a battery technology spinout company from the University of Cambridge, used neutron diffraction and mass spectrometry to achieve greater insight into battery cycle life and help improve performance and material endurance.

A rack of cyclindrical batteries being tested


Echion are a leading light in battery technology worldwide as their anode materials deliver an exceptionally long cycle life, superfast charging capability, and outstanding safety. This leads to unique performance and efficiency, together with record low total cost of ownership, which enables users to sustainably electrify heavy duty transport and industrial applications. Echion has developed a range of outstanding patented anode materials based on mixed niobium oxides, with applications in fast-charging lithium-ion batteries, where they achieve an excellent cycle life at 25°C, with the ability to perform thousands of cycles. A battery needs to have a good cycle life within a temperature range of -20 to 60°C. For Li-ion batteries, the cell works by movement of lithium ions between the cathode and anode. Such a mechanism should work forever, but storage and use at an elevated temperature has been observed to decrease some battery performance over time.​


Funded by an Innovate UK A4I grant, Echion collaborated with the National Physical Laboratory, using secondary-ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to characterise the surface composition of lithium-ion battery electrodes; and with ISIS using neutron diffraction at the Polaris instrument, to study the bulk atomic structure by investigating crystallographic changes taking place within the electrode. Neutron diffraction was expected to provide insight into understanding the exact ageing mechanism leading to cell capacity fading at high temperature during cycling. Pre-prepared cells aged at different temperatures were examined and analysis was then conducted to understand ageing mechanisms by comparing the electrodes before and after cycling.


Neutron diffraction indicated negligible change in the bulk structure of the electrodes, which proves that the crystal structure itself remained stable. SIMS indicated elemental differences in the surface composition, indicating that cycle life issues are more related to overall cell design and surface effects, rather than the bulk of the mixed niobium oxide electrode. This research allows Echion to focus their research into solving these issues, and will accelerate the adoption and commercialisation of Echion's next-generation ultra high-power, fast -charging cell material systems. Longer life cycles will be a key benefit to industrial users from manufacturers of buses, trains and ferries to mining and farming, implementing environmental and public health improvements in reducing harmful gases and particulate matter, in line with the UK government's Net Zero goals.

Quote: “Our work with ISIS Neutron and Muon Source has been an important part of the development of our niobium-based anode material, XNO®. The facilities and expertise available have given us insights and information that we wouldn't have been able to access by other means" - Dr. Fiona Coomer, R&D Programme Manager, Echion Technologies

Contact: de Laune, Rosie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)