Powering your life

The synergy of nickel and steel in batteries

May 22, 2017

powering your life

Nickel plays a major role in many of the battery systems available on the market today that simplify life and provide freedom from electrical outlets.

But whatever the chemistry, nickel has another lesser known—yet important role in battery production when used in combination with steel on the cylindrical cans and covers that protect the battery interior. This nickel-plated-steel configuration ensures the power in the batteries is transferred to the device efficiently, whenever it is needed.

A cylindrical can provides a robust design to guarantee the cell integrity. Volume expansion and contraction during (dis)charge can be accommodated by the strength of the steel and these cylindrical nickel-plated steel cans have found widespread application in single use and rechargeable systems.

Low contact resistance is achieved by depositing a few microns of nickel on the top and bottom surface of the steel strip. Tata Steel Plating has perfected this technique with their state-of-the-art plating lines. After electroplating, the coils are heat treated. This treatment reduces the contact resistance and enhances the adhesion for the high speed can-making that follows. Besides electrical properties, the nickel also provides an excellent corrosion protection against the caustic inside of the cell. This limits the potential for gassing that puts the construction under significant pressure over its lifespan.

The cans are produced by transforming the strip in a number of drawing steps using high speed precision stamping presses.
Cans are then shipped to battery producers around the globe.

Besides good properties during deep drawing and in the cell performance, nickel is also important during cell assembly as it provides good welding behavior.

“Even though batteries are oftentimes taken for granted, the role that nickel and nickel-plated steel play in the performance and reliability of all types of battery systems cannot be overstated” says Dr. Marcel Onink, Commercial Innovation Director at Tata Steel Plating. “Today, the biggest volume is in alkaline batteries. However, in the future this successful combination can be expected to further be present with the strong growth of electric vehicles. Whatever the final chemistry of the cell, most likely it will be packaged in the proven concept of steel with a nickel deposit”.

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