Ask an Engineer: How Do Batteries Work?

The following blog post about batteries originally appeared in the 3D Perspectives blog

“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.

SIMULIA offers an advanced simulation product portfolio, including AbaqusIsightfe-safeToscaSimpoe-MoldSIMPACKCST Studio SuiteXFlowPowerFLOW and more. The SIMULIA Community is the place to find the latest resources for SIMULIA software and to collaborate with other users. The key that unlocks the door of innovative thinking and knowledge building, the SIMULIA Community provides you with the tools you need to expand your knowledge, whenever and wherever.

Katie Corey

Katie manages SIMULIA's social media, blog and online communities. As a writer and technical communicator, she is interested in and passionate about creating an impactful user experience. Katie has a BA in English and Writing from the University of Rhode Island and a MS in Technical Communication from Northeastern University. She is also a proud SIMULIA advocate, passionate about democratizing simulation for all audiences. Katie is a native Rhode Islander and loves telling others about all it has to offer. As a self-proclaimed nerd, she enjoys a variety of hobbies including history, astronomy, science/technology, science fiction, geocaching, true crime, fashion and anything associated with nature and the outdoors. She is also a new mom to a 2-year old budding engineer and two crazy rescue pups.

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