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Powering the Future: How Pressure Sensors Are Improving Battery Performance





Introduction

Batteries power our daily lives. From smartphones to electric vehicles, our modern world depends on their energy. As global battery demand proliferates, improving efficiency is crucial for product performance and environmental sustainability. Even small gains in battery efficiency can have an outsized impact, given the scale of battery use today.

This article examines the role of pressure sensors in boosting battery efficiency. We explore trends in the battery market, how pressure sensors optimize battery systems, the challenges involved, and the promising future outlook for this technology. Battery efficiency improvements depend on innovations across materials, design, and advanced sensing and controls. By dynamically monitoring conditions inside batteries, pressure sensors are emerging as a pivotal tool to extend performance and lifetime. Keep reading to learn how this unassuming technology helps batteries do more with less.

Battery Market Growth Trends

The battery market has experienced rapid growth in recent years, driven by the rise of electric vehicles, mobile devices, and renewable energy storage.

  • Electric vehicles (EVs) now account for the largest share of growth. As EVs go mainstream, demand for lithium-ion batteries is skyrocketing. According to McKinsey & Company, global EV battery capacity is expected to grow at 30% CAGR through 2030, nearing 4,500 gigawatt-hours.

  • Mobile devices remain a significant driver of demand, with the smartphone market continuing to expand. According to a recent report from J.P. Morgan Chase, consumer electronics account for 15% of lithium-ion battery demand. With more power-hungry mobile devices, battery growth remains robust.

  • Grid energy storage also fuels market growth as more renewable energy comes online. Battery storage enables grid stabilization and optimization. According to Wood Mackenzie, global energy storage capacity is expected to grow at 31% CAGR through 2030, providing 741 gigawatt-hours of cumulative capacity.

Pressure Sensors in Batteries

Batteries utilize pressure sensors to monitor the internal pressure conditions, allowing early detection of abnormal pressure buildup that may lead to thermal runaway and other hazardous situations. 

Pressure sensors use a piezoresistive transducer to convert pressure into an electrical signal. A membrane or diaphragm in the sensor deflects slightly under applied pressure, causing a change in the resistance of the piezoresistors embedded in the membrane. This resistance change is detected and converted into a pressure reading. 


Figure 1 – Internal workings of a pressure sensor

Critical applications of pressure monitoring in batteries include:

  • Thermal runaway detection – Pressure buildup often precedes thermal runaway. Pressure sensors can provide an early warning to prevent catastrophic battery failures. Early pressure rise detection allows preventative actions like cooling or disconnecting the battery, significantly improving safety.

  • State of charge (SOC) estimation – Internal pressure changes can indicate the SOC level as gases are generated or consumed during charge/discharge cycles. The SOC information from pressure sensing allows better adaption of charging rates and depth of discharge to maximize performance and lifetime. In addition, supplementing voltage/current data with pressure readings enables more robust estimation algorithms for SOC and state of health.

  • Mechanical stress monitoring – Internal swelling and material degradation alter the pressure. Abnormal pressure changes can indicate physical damage or material fatigue within battery cells before outright failure occurs. Continuous monitoring helps identify battery damage and aging effects.


Figure 2 – Image of a swollen battery

In summary, incorporating pressure sensors delivers sizable improvements in battery safety, lifetime, efficiency, and reliability. The additional data dimension proves invaluable across many battery applications. Pressure monitoring promises to become standard practice as sensors further integrate components and costs continue to decrease.

Pressure Sensor Challenges

Pressure sensors offer great potential for improving battery efficiency, but integrating them does come with some challenges. Two of the biggest challenges are cost and integration into pack design. Pressure sensors add cost to battery packs, which can hinder adoption. The sensors themselves cost money, but there are also costs for integrating them into the pack design and collecting and analyzing the sensor data.

Integrating pressure sensors into pack designs can also be problematic. The sensors take up physical space within battery cells or packs, and the packaging has to protect the sensors. The sensors also require wiring and connections for transmitting data. Battery pack designs will likely need rethinking to incorporate pressure monitoring smoothly.

Another challenge is analyzing and making use of all the pressure sensor data. The sensors generate large datasets that require analytics. Companies need the expertise and tools to turn that data into valuable insights and diagnostics. This additional data presents an opportunity for machine learning and AI to harness sensor output and provide continuous improvement. 

Future Outlook

The future looks bright for the increased adoption of pressure sensors in batteries. Market projections indicate strong growth as the benefits become more widely known.

Several technology improvements will drive more rapid implementation. Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) advances allow for more compact, accurate, and affordable sensors. Improved data analytics tools provide richer insights from sensor data, enabling better battery health monitoring and safety.

Ongoing innovation is steadily driving down costs. As price points drop, manufacturers can integrate pressure sensors more broadly without substantially impacting prices.

As technology progresses and costs decline, pressure sensors will likely become standard components in most battery management systems. Their critical health monitoring and safety benefits are too significant to overlook. Adoption will accelerate to meet growing market needs for high-performing, safe, efficient batteries.


Figure 3 – Surging lithium-ion battery demand through 2030

Conclusion

With growing consumer demand for electric vehicles, grid storage, and portable electronics, the pressure is on for longer battery life and reliability. Pressure sensors are an integral tool to optimize performance and prevent failures. Their unique capabilities unlock the full potential of today’s battery chemistries.

As discussed, monitoring battery pressure with sensors can optimize charging rates and prevent swelling. This monitoring capability is essential as batteries become larger and more powerful. Precise pressure data allows batteries to operate closer to their limits without risk of fire or explosion. Widespread adoption could significantly improve battery cycle life, capacity, and safety while lowering costs.

Advancements in pressure sensor technology will continue to enable smarter, safer, and more efficient batteries. With batteries playing an increasingly important role across many industries, improved pressure monitoring is essential for meeting future energy storage needs.



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