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Innovative Way to Test Batteries Fills a Market Niche

November 20, 2014

Illustration of a grey isothermal battery calorimeter, which looks similar to a copy machine.

NETZSCHs Isothermal Battery Calorimeter (IBC 284), developed by NREL and NETZSCH researchers, performs precise thermal measurements needed to design safer, longer-lasting, and more cost-effective battery systems. Illustration from NETZSCH

Isothermal Battery Calorimeters (IBCs),  developed by NREL researchers, are capable of performing the precise thermal measurements needed to make safer, longer-lasting, and more cost-effective batteries for in a variety of applications.

This instrumentation can accurately characterize heat output and efficiency of these batteries in varying temperature, power load, and use conditions, providing precise and critical information previously unavailable. Batteries cannot survive heat, and they need thermal management; IBCs are essential in measuring how much heat must be rejected from batteries to design optimum battery thermal management systems.

Under a partnership agreement with NETZSCH, that technology is being commercialized to test large format Li-Ion cells and batteries that are used in electric vehicles (EV), aircraft, stationary power backup, and storage applications. The first NETZSCH's IBC was purchased by a Fortune 500 company for battery testing. In 2015 NETZSCH will deliver additional units to other Fortune 500 firms.

"This deal between NREL and NETZSCH was notable in that both parties were extremely motivated to get it done. From initiation of the license negotiation to execution, it took one month," said Eric Payne, an NREL senior licensing executive. 

"We saw a real gap in the marketplace for accurate testing of the larger battery systems," said Peter Ralbovsky, NETZSCH Calorimetry Product Manager.

"We felt that this DOE-funded technology could be useful to many organizations and just needed a path to go from our laboratory prototypes to a commercial product," said Ahmad Pesaran, NREL’s Energy Storage Chief Engineer. "NETZSCH has a proven track record of developing and commercializing calorimeters and thermal analysis tools to demanding requirements. When NETZSCH approached us for collaboration, we recognized  it was a natural fit for our technology as they already offer battery testing systems in the market," he added.

For example, the IBCs are the only calorimeters that can accurately measure heat generated from batteries used in EVs while being charged or discharged.

NETZSCH and NREL have worked together under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement and licensing agreement to further refine NREL's patent-pending technology. In 2013, NREL had 166 active cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs), the largest number of any national laboratory.

The partnership's efforts were recognized by the editors of R&D Magazine with one of the 2013 R&D 100 awards as being among the top technological innovations of the year.

Industry clients are recognizing the value of the instrument. Adoption by customers is expected to impact a variety of industries which can use IBCs to conduct high volumes of tests across a variety of applications.

—Chris Stewart