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NREL Battery Calorimeters Win R&D 100 Award

August 28, 2013

Isothermal Battery Calorimeters (IBCs) developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and NETZSCH North America are among the winners of the 2013 R&D 100 Awards, known in the research and development community as “the Oscars of Innovation.” The IBCs are the only calorimeters in the world capable of performing the precise thermal measurements needed to make safer, longer-lasting, and more cost-effective lithium-ion batteries.

Understanding and controlling temperature is necessary for the successful operation of battery packs in electric-drive vehicles (EDVs). The IBCs are the only calorimeters that can accurately measure heat generated from batteries used in EDVs -- with a baseline sensitivity of 10 milliwatts and heat detection as low as 15 joules -- while being charged and/or discharged.

NREL engineers applied key principles of thermodynamic, heat transfer, thermoelectric, and electrochemical theory to the development of the IBCs. The design is based on isothermal heat-condition calorimetry, which means that a test sample and its surrounding fluid are at the same initial and final uniform temperature. The principle of single-ended conduction means that there are no control test samples to subtract heat leakage or other errors created from various sources. The IBCs are the only calorimeters to eliminate outside environmental variables by surrounding the test chamber on all six sides with an isothermal bath fluid.

—Julia Thomas