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Titan Advanced Energy Solutions receives ~1.1M Phase II SBIR award to develop production-ready ultrasound system to identify dangerous Li-ion batteries

Titan Advanced Energy Solutions (Titan), focused on using ultrasound technology to help make batteries run better, safer, and longer, received nearly $1.1 million in Phase II SBIR funding from the US DOE (earlier post) to develop an early warning system that detects hazardous conditions in lithium-ion batteries.

This award follows on Titan’s 2020 Phase I award to build a prototype of the device. The new funding will be used to build a production-ready system.

Lithium-ion batteries are critical to energy storage for renewable energy and electric vehicles but there are concerns about their safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently issued guidance to owners of certain model year Chevrolet Bolt EVs to park their cars outside and away from their homes after charging due to the risk of fire. (Earlier post.) LG and GM subsequently identified the cause of fires in the Bolt as due to manufacturing defects. (earlier post)

Existing battery management systems provide warnings of impending failure just minutes to seconds before there is a fire or other dangerous situation, which is often not enough time to stop the hazardous situation from occurring. Titan’s early warning system uses proven ultrasound technology to detect abnormal and hazardous battery conditions in real time, hours to days in advance of a dangerous situation, and generates actionable warnings.

These conditions may include thermal runaways, a chain reaction within a battery cell that can be very difficult to stop once it has started.

Titan says that its ultrasound system can deliver realtime SoC and SoH accuracy at 99% for NMC, LMO and LFP batteries.

  • State of Charge (SoC). Sound travels through different mediums at a different velocity (water, wood, air, etc.). This works very well for determining the SoC of a battery. A fully charged battery is stiffer, the Li-ions are in the anode and the speed of sound is faster than when the battery is less charged. Titan can measure SoC with 99% accuracy and precision at all stages of the battery’s life, regardless of the current applied, since the SoC corresponds to the volume of lithium ions physically present in the anode.

  • State of Health (SoH). Ultrasound is highly effective at detection/evaluation, dimensional measurements, material characterization, and revealing changes in materials, which is exactly what happens as a battery ages. Several chemical processes influence the physical properties of a battery, and therefore its capacity, over time. One of the dominant degradation mechanisms is the growth of the secondary solid electrolyte interface (SSEI), a plaque (long organic polymer chain) which prevents the normal flow of Li-ions from the anode to the cathode.

    Titan sees outgassing, lithium plating and dendrite growth as physical manifestations as well—critical for fast-charging applications.

Titan

The Phase II awards from the DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program go to support the research and development of innovative clean energy technologies toward commercialization.

Statista, a global business data platform, projects that between 2020 and 2030, the global demand for lithium-ion batteries will increase elevenfold to more than two terawatt hours. Much of this growth can be attributed to the rising popularity of electric vehicles which predominantly rely on lithium-ion batteries for power. Ensuring safety is a key issue to EV adoption.

The Titan award is one of 110 innovative projects from American small businesses and entrepreneurs that the DOE is funding for a total of $127 million.

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