So that even love does not run out of battery. The story of welding and the longevity of modern gadgets

Recently, my colleagues and I had a chance to talk with the developer of the first Russian installation for automated welding of lithium-ion batteries. Why now and with him? Firstly, the invention is fresh, very recent, and from the point of view of technology and technology – potentially in demand. Secondly, in recent years, as an average person, they are interested in increasing the autonomy of surrounding household appliances, be it a robot vacuum cleaner, a toothbrush, a razor, or the notorious mobile phone with a laptop. Where else to go for new technologies, if not to eminent St. Petersburg universities?! Every now and then, the developments of the Polytechnic University, ITMO, St. Petersburg State University and … LETI are heard. We went to the last university.

Meet Vladimir Evstratov, 23 years old. Master student of the second year of study at St. Petersburg State Electrotechnical University “LETI”. In alma mater and recorded an interview in one of the laboratories.

The invention, as often happens with real scientists, was prompted by personal interest. Absolutely random. Once, says Vladimir, the battery of his personal electric scooter failed. Instead of long and necessary searches on sites and running around offline stores, I remembered an ironic saying: “If you want to do it well, do it yourself!” And did.

My setup for precision resistance welding. It allows you to assemble batteries for electric scooters, power tools and other devices that can be powered off the mains. The mechanics here are very expensive, and the programming is complicated. But this development is cheaper than foreign analogues. It is smaller, less material was used on it. It is lighter in structure, there are fewer parts, but in terms of functionality it is in no way inferior

talks about his invention Vladimir. It’s time to start studying the technical implementation of the invention. And this is not uninteresting.

The process of welding the batteries together into one large battery takes only a few minutes. And this is on the demo. It was built, by the way, on the basis of a conventional 3D printer. If such installations appear at one or another industrial enterprise, automation will speed up many times or even an order of magnitude. In this way, you can not only assemble a lithium-ion battery for a laptop, but also a power source even for a decent run of a popular, environmentally friendly and fashionable today (especially in two Russian capitals) electric bus. In principle, there is no limit to the size of the battery that can be spot-welded in this manner from small components. But many scientists are now more concerned about another question: how to increase the capacity of portable gadgets and extend their autonomy without increasing the size.

Vladimir Ishin, photo by the author
Vladimir Ishin, photo by the author

I am a realist and a pessimist on this issue. To increase autonomy, it is necessary to increase the dimensions of a device. Today, the reality is that if we do not discover some supernova element in the periodic table in the coming years, most likely the density limits per unit volume will not change. They have already reached their maximum. Clearly, to increase the battery capacity of the phone, you need to approximately double its size. It will be twice as thick. And nobody wants that, which is understandable. It’s easier to still use portable batteries, power banks

discusses the scientific adviser and namesake of Vladimir Evstratov, Deputy Head of the Department of Electrotechnological and Converter Engineering of LETI Vladimir Ishin. And the cases when the batteries of smartphones of one of the most popular electronics companies exploded in the hands of users have not yet been forgotten. In this matter, safety is still more important. By the way, about her. According to the developer of the welding machine, his invention is safe. It is known that soldering batteries is not a good idea. But spot welding is the most suitable method. The main thing is that the batteries themselves are of high quality. By the way, you can even cook at home. Another invention of LETI undergraduate Yevstratov is a portable welding machine.

Portable welding machine by Vladimir Evstratov for batteries
Portable welding machine by Vladimir Evstratov for batteries

This model is already almost the twentieth in a row. All the previous ones needed improvements. This instance seems to be close to ideal. The parts were printed on a 3D printer. The software, which is important, is also Made in Russia.

I developed samples for about a month or two somewhere. I’m just at the beginning of the journey, it turns out … You can, of course, buy a ready-made battery, but there is a risk of fraud, there will not be enough capacity, even if the consumer pays a lot. In our realities, this is not uncommon” (Vladimir Evstratov)

In general, in the laboratory of LETI, where we recorded the interview, various experiments are carried out daily. Everything you need for research is there. Therefore, students, and undergraduates, and graduate students can try to bring to life even the strangest, at first glance, ideas.

LETI Laboratory
LETI Laboratory

The development of Vladimir, of course, cannot be counted among the discoveries. But more importantly, he did it himself. Here are the following sensations: let’s say, a person bought a microwave – it works, does something, and all right. But when I did, I tried to make a similar microwave myself – completely different sensations, a different experience

Vladimir Ishin shares his impressions of working with his wards. According to the teacher, every researcher in these laboratories literally burns in the eyes. Interest and emotions cannot be faked.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Yevstratov’s welding machine has already been recognized. While in his native university. The project became one of the best in the internal competition.

If this trial period is successful, when the final debugging is completed, I will try to get a patent.  Well, it's about a year or two, ”the developer of the welding installation shared his plans.
If this trial period is successful, when the final debugging is completed, I will try to get a patent. Well, it’s about a year or two, ”the developer of the welding installation shared his plans.

The future – already today – is definitely about our days. Technical know-how is trying to stop surprising us. But so far it still doesn’t work. After a close acquaintance with the welding machine for batteries, I even somehow wanted to fall into childhood: to disassemble some equipment at home, see how it all works, and try to fix everything myself. Vladimir Evstratov’s supervisor also spoke about the modern experience of melting substances with the help of electricity: when a sample literally floats in the air without touching the ground. Asked to take a look just in case. Of course, I will write if I can see it with my own eyes.

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