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Sandia Labs Battery Abuse Testing Laboratory undergoing $4.2M renovation to enable testing of larger batteries for EVs and PHEVs

Sandia National Laboratories’ Battery Abuse Testing Laboratory is undergoing a major renovation so Sandia researchers can test larger batteries for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

The upgrades include an X-ray computerized tomography system that will generate 3-D images to allow researchers to conduct failure analysis without doing physical analysis, which can be destructive. The lab’s battery calorimetry capabilities will be the world’s largest and will include six accelerating rate calorimeters (ARCs), three isothermal battery calorimeters, one microcalorimeter, and one differential scanning calorimeter, all of which will be consolidated and housed in the new facility. New spectrometers and laser diagnostics for gas measurements, upgrades to the scrubber system, and additional battery cyclers, supporting higher-energy batteries, are also on the lab’s roster of new equipment.

The facility for battery testing was built in 1991, and has conducted thousands of scientific studies to evaluate the safety of batteries under a wide range of imaginable abuse scenarios that a battery might face in the real world. Those studies included 12 years of testing for the FreedomCAR program and the US Advanced Battery Consortium.

The $4.2 million overhaul, paid for with federal stimulus funds, includes updating test bays, data acquisition systems and laboratory space, and hiring additional staff members to meet the growing demand for Sandia’s battery safety expertise.

This will bring our capabilities up to the point where we can test larger batteries that are going to be relevant to the electric vehicle market, and move up to batteries that will be used in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. We’ll have the capability to test batteries in the 5- to 15-kilowatt-hour range, which we’ve never done before.

—Chris Orendorff, team lead for the Battery Abuse Testing Lab

During a visit to Sandia in November 2009, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman announced the Battery Abuse Testing Lab funding as part of a $104.7 million stimulus package whose goal is to advance national clean energy and technology efficiency across seven Department of Energy (DOE) national labs. The Battery Abuse Testing Lab’s share is paying for upgrades to the lab, along with several new lab positions and sustaining about 50 construction-related jobs.

The remodeled bays have been completely stripped clean, coated in an epoxy paint to make cleanup easier, with new explosion-proof lights and a new carbon-dioxide fire suppression system that can be engaged manually or automatically to quickly bring large fires under control.

New data acquisition systems will ensure a much more precise readout of results. The new systems will also help with efficiency, reducing set-up time by as much as a day, which will increase throughput six times.

Because much of the battery lab’s testing is done for private companies, the area outside the control room will have two new 42-inch monitors so visitors can watch the test.

Construction started in December 2010, and completion is scheduled for September 2012, but the work will likely be complete this summer. Orendorff expects the lab to be fully operational by March 2012.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated and managed by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.





"X-ray computerized tomography system that will generate 3-D images to allow researchers to conduct failure analysis without doing physical analysis"

That seems like something good to have, industry might not have that equipment for non destructive testing of packs.

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