Billions of lithium-ion battery cells are produced annually and more than five percent are estimated to have small undetected leaks that could affect battery life or cause vehicle fires.
The company’s breakthrough technology can accurately test all types of lithium-ion battery cells for the first time – the single most important leak-detection development in the past decade, according to Dr. Daniel Wetzig, INFICON’s research and development director. The company’s new leak-detection systems recently were shown for the first time in North America at The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan.
“The rapid detection of even the smallest battery-cell leaks is absolutely essential to achieving extended service life and meeting necessary safety requirements,” Dr. Wetzig said. “Today only a fraction of new battery-cell leaks can be detected through traditional methods.”
Developed at the company’s research facilities in Cologne, Germany, INFICON’s new quality-control systems incorporate industry-first mass-spectrometer technology that can detect dangerous leaks 1,000 times smaller than other test methods and paves the way for the industry’s first quality standards for EV battery cells.
Thomas Parker, INFICION’s North American automotive sales manager, added that the company is working with several companies to develop robotic and other high-speed assembly-line applications for the new technology.
The company’s ELT3000 technology was discussed for the first time publicly in an SAE International paper entitled “Methods for Leak Testing Lithium-Ion Batteries to Assure Quality with Proposed Rejection Limit Standards” that was published last year.
ELT3000 systems are user friendly and provide precise leak measurements that follow international metrology standards such as those established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the German Institute of Calibration (DKD – Deutscher Kalibrierdienst).
“Every step in the leak-detection process, from calibration and determining signal rates up to establishing actual leak rates, is completely automated by our systems,” Parker pointed out. “The user simply needs to click ‘start’ and wait until the answer appears on the display. Ten minutes of operator training will be sufficient for learning how to use the system on a regular basis.”
Under development for the past four years, INFICON’s ELT3000’s spectrometer technology can help assure extended EV battery life of up to 10 years or more, reduce warranty costs and help guard against dangerous battery fires, Parker noted.
“Automakers in North America and elsewhere around the world want to maintain the very highest quality standards and customer-acceptance levels possible for their future waves of electric vehicles,” he concluded. “Car companies will have the most to lose if their batteries can’t achieve mileage targets, require early replacement or cause safety concerns.”