Written by: Timothy A Vincent, Faduma M Maddar, Sheng Chao, Erdogan Guk, Jonathan E H Sansom, Begum Gulsoy, Mark Copley, Ivana Hasa and James Marco
Abstract: Instrumented battery cells (i.e. those containing sensors) and smart cells (with integrated control and communication circuitry) are essential for the development of the next-generation battery technologies, such as Sodium-ion Batteries (SIBs). The mapping and monitoring of parameters, for example the quantification of temperature gradients, helps improve cell designs and optimise management systems. Integrated sensors must be protected against the harsh cell electrolytic environment. State-of-the-art coatings include the use of Parylene polymer (our reference case).
We applied three new types of coatings (acrylic, polyurethane and epoxy based) to thermistor arrays mounted on flexible printed circuit board (PCBs). We systematically analyse the coatings: (i) PCB submersion within electrolyte vials (8 weeks); (ii) analysis of sample inserted into coin cell; (iii) analysis of sensor and cell performance data for 1Ah pouch SIBs. Sodium-based liquid electrolyte was selected, consisting of a 1 M solution of sodium hexafluorophosphate (NaPF6) dissolved in a mixture of ethylene carbonate and diethylene carbonate in a ratio of 3:7 (v/v%). Our novel experiments revealed that the epoxy based coated sensors offered reliable temperature measurements; superior performance observed compared to the Parylene sensors (erroneous results from one sample were reported, under 5 d submersed in electrolyte).
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy revealed in the case of most coatings tested, formation of additional species occurred during exposure to the different coatings applied to the PCBs. The epoxy-based coating demonstrated resilience to the electrolytic-environment, as well as minimal effect on cell performance (capacity degradation compared to unmodified-reference, within 2% for the coin cell, and within 3.4% for pouch cell). The unique methodology detailed in this work allows sensor coatings to be trialled in a realistic and repeatable cell environment. This study demonstrated for the first time that this epoxy-based coating enables scalable, affordable, and resilient sensors to be integrated towards next-generation Smart SIBs.