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Electric Boats, Hybrids to Benefit from Lithium Battery R&D

Research and development applied to Lithium-ion batteries (increasingly used as ‘energy storage banks’ in hybrid marine powered propulsion systems in workboats and leisure craft due to their high energy density) has recently revealed ways to make these batteries safer, cheaper yet with better performance. The relevant research findings come from John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

Lithium-ion Battery Bank: Photo US Federal Govt.

Inexpensive Sensor Warns of Lithium-ion Battery Failure

Battery malfunctions (and occasionally fires) occur in all Lithium-ion powered applications ranging in size from the cellphone right through to large hybrid or electrically powered plant and present a safety challenge to manufacturers. Typically such catastrophic failures result from ‘thermal runaway’, which occurs when a cell in the battery reaches a critical temperature.

Searching for early-warning of such catastrophic failure, researchers at John Hopkins APL discovered an intrinsic relationship between the internal temperature of Lithium-ion cells and an easily measured electrical parameter of the cell. A small alternating current applied at specific frequencies is modified by the cell in a way that is directly related to the temperature of the critical electromechanical interface between the electrodes and the electrolyte.

Researchers were able to measure the temperature of the layers of the cell where thermal runaway begins by connecting the new sensor at the positive and negative terminals, using power from the battery being monitored; by this means unsafe thermal conditions could be detected at the critical moment they occur and before the cell vents or sets itself on fire. APL has applied for patents for their invention and is on the lookout for licensing opportunities.



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