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ARPA-E issues RFI for advanced technologies for robust control of energy storage systems

The US Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) issued a Request For Information (RFI, DE-FOA-0000673) seeking input from researchers and technologists with the goal of evaluating novel approaches to providing diagnostic, prognostic, and control capabilities to significantly increase performance and accelerate adoption of energy storage systems.

While researchers are making rapid advances in new battery materials and storage technologies, few transformational innovations have emerged in management of energy storage systems, the agency notes. As a result, many battery systems are built and operated well below their theoretical energy and power capacities, incorporating excess storage capacity and significant balance of systems to meet operational requirements while minimizing the risk of premature or catastrophic failure.

Further, energy storage systems may suffer from uncertain or inadequate lifetimes, and concerns over life and safety prohibit dual-use and secondary application, such as vehicle-to-grid dispatch. These drawbacks increase initial acquisition cost, life-cycle cost, and risk of deployment.

It is unlikely that any one particular innovation will completely solve the challenges of battery management. However, comprehensive system-level solutions combining data from novel sensors with advanced models, system designs, and control paradigms may allow us to drastically enhance the utilization and rate capabilities of battery systems within safe limits, while extending their life and meeting operational requirements. Such an energy management system would be a game changer—significantly accelerating the adoption and value of energy storage for primary applications in all sectors, and opening the door to dual- and secondary-use application.

Better still, energy storage management breakthroughs will not only improve the capabilities of today’s state-of-the-art technologies, but will also be applicable to new battery chemistries, thus providing a multiplier to the benefit of research and development focused on next generation battery materials and designs. ARPA-E seeks to understand whether transformational new approaches can be developed to render such solutions feasible and cost-effective, and seeks to better quantify the potential benefit of innovation in this space.

—ARPA-E RFI

ARPA-E is seeking input on three technology areas in particular:

  • Sensing. Most battery management systems rely on measurements of current, voltage, and temperature for state estimation. What approaches could dramatically enhance current battery sensor systems? What novel online sensing or probing mechanisms could be employed to improve energy storage management?

    Examples include but are not limited to: cost-effective approaches to probe various parameters; sensors based on a variety of probing mechanisms; sensors that rely on probes embedded within a battery cell; and sensing technologies that derive new information from existing cell designs.

  • Modeling. Most of today’s battery management systems rely on simple equivalent-circuit models coupled to rule-based control algorithms. What approaches could be employed to dramatically enhance the state-of-the-art modeling of batteries? Are there novel characterization tools or other approaches that would allow for dramatic improvements in the robustness of physical-based battery cell models, or in the ability to rapidly validate such models for diagnostic and prognostic use?

    Are there novel characterization tools or other approaches that would allow for dramatic improvements in ability or speed of determining degradation and failure mechanisms in batteries?

  • Design and Control of Battery Systems. What novel approaches to energy storage system design or control could be employed to dramatically improve performance, lifetime, and safety of energy storage systems given state of the art sensing and modeling capabilities? What integrated system level approaches could combine innovations in sensing, modeling, design, and/or controls to dramatically enhance energy storage management?

Responses must be received by 9 March 2012. The RFI is not a funding announcement (FOA).

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