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KULR Technology exclusive manufacturer and distributor of Li-ion battery Internal Short Circuit (ISC) devices developed by NASA, NREL

KULR Technology has reached agreement with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to be the exclusive manufacturing and distribution partner for the patented Internal Short Circuit (ISC) device which causes predictable battery cell failures in lithium-ion batteries, making them easier to study and, therefore, safer.

Lithium-ion batteries provide power for everything from smart phones and laptops to electric cars and space craft. However, lithium-ion batteries fail, sometimes with catastrophic results. Due to the relative rarity of cell failures, scientists and researchers had been unable to reliably or accurately replicate latent defect cell failures in lab settings, impeding research into safer battery technology.

In 2015, researchers at NREL and NASA developed and patented a device—the Internal Short Circuit—that creates these cell failures in predictable conditions.

Isc
NREL/NASA ISC design. Broadly, the ISC is fabricated into a target cell, then activated by melting the wax. Click to enlarge.

Cell designers, battery developers, and researchers need these devices to be able to better understand the cell internal shorting phenomena and its implications on cell and battery design. Numerous manned space applications rely on trigger cells with this implantable device to verifiably create the problems they are trying to address, and they are in high demand. It’s really important that they are going to be more available and accessible.

—Dr. Eric Darcy, Battery Systems Technical Discipline Lead at NASA-Johnson Space Center, who co-developed the ISC technology

Previous lithium-ion cell testing methods such as mechanical (crush, nail penetration), thermal (heat to vent, thermal cycling) and electrical (overcharge, off-limits cycling) were all simply “not relevant to the latent-defect–induced field failure,” according to a 2015 NASA and NREL presentation.

The NREL-created Battery ISC Device does not rely on mechanically damaging the battery exterior to activate the short, as do most of the other evaluation methodologies, but instead triggers a true internal short. This makes it possible to accurately pinpoint and fix problems leading to malfunctions.

The ISC break-through received the prestigious R&D100 Award in 2016 and was runner-up NASA invention of the year in 2017 and is now part of NASA’s “Crewed Space Vehicle Battery Safety Requirements.”

KULR will begin shipping the ISC and ISC trigger cells in October, 2018.

The ISC is a major step towards making battery technologies safer. For the first time, we could trigger cells to fail at a known location and time. Working with University College London in the UK, we have been able to use synchrotron imaging to watch failures in real time which allows us to design solutions. This vital research will now continue at KULR to help battery manufacturers engineer new safety measures for battery systems.

—NREL Senior Energy Storage Engineer Matt Keyser, who led the development work of the ISC

Perhaps the most dangerous lithium-ion battery failure is thermal runaway propagation in which the extreme heat and fire from the failure of a single battery cell spreads to neighboring cells causing a chain-reaction fire and explosion. Among the most promising solutions to thermal runaway, in lab tests conducted by NASA using the ISC, is KULR Technology’s thermal runaway shield (TRS). The thin and lightweight heat shield has proven to stop runaway by insulating lithium-ion cells adjacent to those experiencing failure, keeping their temperature both low and stable during these catastrophic events.

Most often, to induce an on-demand thermal runaway response in trigger cells, safety verification required over-testing, resulting in over-designing the battery. With the ISC, researchers can now design and produce cells and cell configurations that deal with the thermal runaway threat directly.

—Eric Darcy

KULR Technology’s core technology is a proprietary, vertically-aligned carbon fiber cooling material that is lighter, more flexible and more efficient than traditional thermal management products. The fiber was co-developed over decades of testing and research with NASA and has been deployed on the International Space Station and included in research missions to Mars and Mercury.

KULR carbon fiber has virtually unlimited commercial and industrial applications for battery safety, reducing heat and increasing the longevity of electronic components and increasing the efficiency of energy storage. KULR also has extensive experience with tailoring various waxes for their melting heat sink technologies. With wax as the key insulator in the ISC device, KULR will able to optimize the activation temperature of the device upon request.

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