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NREL Kicks Off Next Phase of Advanced Computer-Aided Battery Engineering

March 16, 2016

NREL researcher looks across table at meeting

Ahmad Pesaran, Energy Storage Group Manager for NREL's Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center, led the kickoff meeting for CAEBAT-3

On March 8, NREL hosted the first review meeting of the Advanced Computer-Aided Battery Engineering Consortium, initiating phase three of the collaborative Computer Aided Engineering for Electric Drive Batteries (CAEBAT) activity  funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO).

The NREL-led consortium is a multi-lab, multi-university, and multi-industry team that aims to develop, enhance, and validate sophisticated multi-physics simulation tools to accelerate the development cycle of batteries while improving their performance, safety, lifespan, and cost. Advanced battery technologies are essential to boost electric drive vehicle performance and consumer appeal -- and ultimately reduce petroleum consumption and emissions. The consortium consists of NREL, Argonne National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Texas A&M University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ANSYS Inc., and USCAR Crash Safety Working Group. The multimillion-dollar CAEBAT-3 effort builds upon the models, simulation tools, and software suits developed under earlier DOE-funded CAEBAT-1 and CAEBAT-2 projects.

Over the past several years, CAEBAT teams managed by NREL have combined new and existing battery models into commercially available software used by industry to minimize design cycles and optimizing batteries for increased performance, safety, and lifespan. Now, NREL is contributing two major innovations to phase three of the project. NREL's predictive and super-fast electrochemical-thermal computer simulation of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, known as a multi-scale multi-domain (GH-MSMD) model framework, was developed in earlier phases of the CAEBAT project. The lab's coupled mechanical-electrochemical-thermal (MECT) simulations can be used to predict the safety response of batteries in electric drive vehicles during a crash-induced crush. For CAEBAT-3, NREL is working with ANSYS, a U.S. simulation software company, to incorporate the GH-MSMD and MECT into battery simulation software.

CAEBAT-3: Implementation, Improvement and Development

Ahmad Pesaran, manager of NREL's Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center's Energy Storage Group, led the kickoff meeting and brought together members of the NREL consortium and parties from the DOE, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. DOE VTO Battery R&D Technology Manager Brian Cunningham provided opening remarks, emphasizing his expectations for continued collaboration and progress toward the project objectives.

"Tuesday's meeting allowed for a collaborative setting to highlight achievements, new findings, and plan for the upcoming months," said Pesaran. "Our high-speed GH-MSMD and first-of-its-kind MECT mark meaningful achievements for the NREL consortium -- we look forward to working with our partners as everyone brings a unique set of complementary capabilities to put advanced battery simulation tools in the hands of end-users such as TARDEC and USCAR, accelerating the design of battery packs for plug-in electric vehicles."

The CAEBAT-3 consortium is focused on:

  1. Implementing the significant increase in computational speed of its electrochemical-thermal (ECT) models achieved in phase two into ANSYS commercial battery software
  2. Improving, validating, and incorporating the MECT models into crush software tools
  3. Developing microstructure modeling tools for improving design of battery electrodes.

NREL energy storage researchers Gi-Heon Kim, Shriram Santhanagopalan, and Kandler Smith, along with collaborators Peter Graf and Chao Zhang of NREL's Computational Science Center, offered presentations on the lab's contributions. Researchers highlighted plans to validate the efficient coupling of MECT models with electrode mechanical property measurements from MIT, as well as battery crush test data from Sandia National Laboratories. The team discussed previous work on simulating and validating models for battery abuse tests -- such as driving a nail through a battery cell or mechanically pinching the cell to trigger a short circuit and test battery safety.

Smith, who presented on developing advanced microstructure models, said the NREL team has made significant progress in simulating physics at the electrode microstructure level and creating a virtual design tool for battery electrodes and microstructure. "The design tool created with Texas A&M will use stochastic reconstruction techniques to rapidly screen new hypothetical microstructures, rather than relying solely on tomographic measurement of fabricated microstructure geometry -- a much more time-consuming experiment," he said.

Argonne National Laboratory will fabricate battery electrodes for electrochemical and tomography measurements, in order to validate microstructure models. The consortium will take advantage of NREL's High Performance Computing center for insight on developing more accurate simulation tools.

Learn more about CAEBAT and the Transportation & Hydrogen System Center's Energy Storage team on