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NREL and NASA Receive Regional FLC Award for Notable Technology

August 25, 2016

NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were selected as 2016 recipients of a Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Mid-Continent Regional Award, for their notable technology development of the patented Battery Internal Short-Circuit (ISC) Device.  

Members of the FLC selection committee recognize federal laboratories and their industry partners for outstanding technology transfer achievements, and the Mid-Continent Region represents the largest of six FLC regions. NREL Senior Engineer Matthew Keyser and Energy Storage Group Manager Ahmad Pesaran, along with NASA Scientist and collaborator Eric Darcy, will be honored during the regional awards ceremony on September 14, 2016.

Everyday electronics such as laptops, smart phones, and cameras are typically powered by rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for their light weight and high storage capacity. Electric vehicles also rely on the small packaging of Li-ion batteries, as well as airplanes and the spacesuits that astronauts' lives depend on. On very rare occasions, Li-ion batteries can overheat due to a latent internal short-circuit in the battery cell, which can sometimes lead to thermal runaway and related safety hazards.

The Battery ISC Device, a diagnostic tool that  helps evaluate  safety improvements made to lightweight and high-storage capacity batteries, is the only tool available that can replicate a naturally-occurring internal short-circuit. While other battery testing methods use mechanical, thermal or electrical triggers to induce a short circuit, these methods fall short in providing accurate, replicable, and actionable data. The Battery ISC Device, developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office, represents a revolutionary leap forward in testing battery safety.

"We are honored to receive this prestigious award with our collaborators at NASA," said Keyser. "With new technologies emerging every day that rely on smaller, denser batteries, it is crucial to introduce advanced tools such as the one we've developed to improve battery safety for NASA and the vehicle, electronics, and aviation industries."

NASA JSC is currently using the Battery ISC Device to improve the design and safety of battery modules used by astronauts in the International Space Station. NASA is studying how to design effective battery enclosures that prevent cell-to-cell propagation of thermal runaway in spacesuit battery packs, which power the life support functions for astronauts walking through space.

"The FLC awards are among the highest-ranked in technology transfer, and we are very pleased to receive this award," said Pesaran. "We hope the benefits of the technology will continue to help even more battery developers and integrators with safe design and development of high-performance batteries."

NREL has already provided more than 500 internal short circuit devices to battery developers and industry partners such as the Cadenza Innovation, E-One Moli, Leyden Energy, and EIC Laboratories to study the stability of Li-ion and prevent propagation of overheating in battery packs. The laboratory is also entering into agreements with developers to produce the device on a larger scale to make the technology even more accessible.

By receiving the FLC Mid-Continent Regional Award, NREL and NASA are in the running for the 2017 National FLC Awards competition. Winners of the national competition will be announced at the ceremony in September.

Learn more about NREL's work in battery safety .