How do batteries work?

“Do people understand how batteries work? I don’t think so.”

That’s the opening line from Victor Oancea, an R&D Technology Director for 3DS brand SIMULIA, in a recent video from our “Now You Know” series which explores the surprisingly complex items, issues and occurrences that many of us take for granted when we encounter them every day.

Take batteries. Batteries are ubiquitous. They’re in our phones, our vehicles, appliances, tools, medical devices and remote controls, just to name a few. Charging and discharging to power our lives. We depend on them – and it shows. The global lithium ion battery market is projected to grow from $41.1 billion in 2021 to $116.6 billion by 2030.

So, how does a battery work? Well, it’s kind of like a tennis match.

You have these two electrodes – an anode and a cathode – and, between the two is a piece of an electric insulator that allows some, but not all, ions to go through. It prevents direct passage of electrons to avoid short circuiting.

“Imagine a battery in a schematic sense,” says Oancea. “When you see the tennis ball going from left to right from right to left, that’s what lithium ions do in lithium ion batteries in a charging and discharging type process.”

Lithium ion battery uses range from single cells in common consumer electronics to larger, multi-cell packs powering electric vehicles and marine vessels. Rechargeable lithium batteries are also used for storing excess solar and wind power.

Researchers are racing to improve lithium ion battery technology to keep pace with innovation and the push for more electric vehicles and renewable energy. Some are also looking past li-ions to alternative energy storage devices called supercapacitors.

Supercharging research

Battery life is a big deal. A battery is only as good as its ability to charge and discharge over and over again – like hundreds, if not thousands of times. Researchers on teams like Oancea’s are pushing for ways to make batteries that recharge faster, hold charges for longer and live longer lives. Imagine an electric vehicle that charges in minutes not hours.

SIMULIA’s technology supercharges experiments by using predictive simulations to model battery life.

“We can reduce experiments that could last six to nine months to a day worth of simulation, helping with accelerating design and assessing the viability of certain choices as far as cell construction is concerned,” says Oancea. “If we can come up with models that are very predictive in that way, it would be a gigantic gain in terms of accelerating timeline of development of a product.”


Watch another “Now You Know” video on aircraft noise simulation.

Patrick Ball

Patrick Ball

Patrick is a Senior Communications Manager on the Corporate Publishing team here at Dassault Systèmes. An experienced journalist, marketer, speechwriter and storyteller, Patrick's words have appeared on pages and stages around the world.