EV battery leak detection tech promises reliable Li-ion testing

October 07, 2020 // By Rich Pell
EV battery leak detection tech promises reliable Li-ion testing
Measurement and control systems company INFICON has announced new technology that it says will allow automakers and battery suppliers to reliably test electric-vehicle (EV) battery cells for the first time.

The company says its breakthrough leak-detection systems can reliably and accurately test all types of lithium-ion battery cells for the first time – claimed to be the single most important leak-detection development in the past 10 years. Billions of lithium-ion battery cells are produced annually for use in electric, hybrid-electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as for medical devices and a variety of consumer electronics products, and depending on cell type, five percent or more of those cells may have undetected leaks, says the company.

Based on mass-spectrometer technology, the company's new leak detectors are offered as being able to identify dangerous leaks 1,000 times smaller than currently possible. Only a fraction of new battery-cell leaks can be detected through traditional methods, says the company, and its new ELT3000 technology could pave the way for the industry's first reliable quality-control standards for EV battery cells.

"The rapid detection of even the smallest battery-cell leaks is absolutely essential to achieving extended service life and meeting necessary safety requirements," says Dr. Daniel Wetzig, INFICON's research and development director for leak detection. "The use of industry-first spectrometer technology, for example, can help assure an extended EV battery life of up to 10 years or more."

Three types of battery cells today are used to power most hybrid-electric, electric and autonomous vehicles: hard-cased prismatic, cylindrical cells, and softer pouch cells. The company expects its equipment for testing prismatic and cylindrical cells to be introduced in October, followed by testing devices for pouch cells in late 2020 or early 2021.

Currently, says the company, empty hard-case battery cells are checked by filling the cells with helium test gas to detect leaks while in a vacuum chamber. Electrolytes are not inserted into the cells until after they have been "dry tested."

"Helium bombing" is an alternative approach, but generally not suited for liquid-filled components. If used, however, electrolyte-filled battery cells are placed in a vacuum chamber

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