PARC, a Xerox company, announced yesterday it has signed a $4 million contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under the program for Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED).
This contract will have PARC, along with project partner LG Chem Power Inc. (LGCPI), a subsidiary of LG Chem, develop a fiber optic monitoring system capable of providing detailed information about the internal condition of batteries. The end goal is to allow batteries to perform better in applications such as electric vehicles (EVs).
The system will use PARC’s compact wavelength-shift detection technology and machine learning/sensor network expertise — part of PARC’s optics and optoelectronics and intelligent automation work — to enable effective real-time performance management and optimized battery design. Capabilities will range from inferring state and health information to predicting remaining life, and the resulting commercial EV-grade battery module with embedded optical sensors and readout unit will undergo industry-standard validation at LGCPI’s facilities.
“The ability to accurately measure what is going on inside a battery will have immediate benefits for battery size, weight, cost, safety, and reliability,” said Rob McHenry, PARC’s Energy Technology program manager. “One of the reasons that EV battery systems are so expensive is that very conservative design and safety approaches are required to compensate for the lack of real-time information about what is happening inside the cells during operation. The harsh electrochemical environment and other demanding constraints prevent conventional sensors from working, so we’re left to infer the true conditions inside the batteries through external readings like current and voltage. The uncertainty of these inferences means that batteries must be oversized significantly to guarantee reliability and safety. PARC’s fiber optic sensing system can change that by measuring internal conditions with unprecedented accuracy, allowing designers to more fully use a battery’s true capabilities while simultaneously improving safety.”
ARPA-E will fund the development and demonstration of a complete battery sensor prototype, including new fiber optic sensing elements, a design to cost-effectively integrate hair-thin optical fibers into battery cells and packs, a compact optical read-out unit to measure the signals, and the intelligent algorithms that can make sense of the measurements to effectively control the battery.
“If successful, the advanced sensing, diagnostic, and control technologies developed under the AMPED program will allow us to unlock enormous untapped potential in the performance, safety, and lifetime of today’s commercial battery systems,” said Ilan Gur, program director, ARPA-E. “My hope is that these cutting-edge projects will accelerate the impact of vehicle and grid-scale energy storage in reducing our country’s reliance on imported fuels and improving the safety, security, and economic efficiency of our electricity grid.”
Ajay Raghavan, PARC researcher and principal investigator leading the effort, explained PARC is already doing its own research on how to build better batteries and says the company has a good understanding of the physics involved. Raghavan said PARC will also build on its history in Intelligent Automation to develop smart algorithms that interpret signals to accurately estimate the overall state-of-charge, state-of-health, and time to discharge of the battery… Items an EV driver really cares about.
LGCPI, considered by many to be the leading U.S. manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for EVs, will work with PARC to develop the system and conduct testing to validate that it is robust and cost effective for the commercial market.