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Electro-thermal modelling of lithium-ion battery packs from the safety perspective

Funded by the European Commission, 2015 to 2017
Lead academics: Professor Jennifer X Wen and Dr Yongmann Chung

Lithium-ion batteries (LIB) are found in many applications such as consumer electronics, electric vehicles (EVs) and airplanes. However, they can be dangerous under some conditions and can pose a safety hazard since they contain a flammable electrolyte and are also kept pressurized. Despite the high safety standards being imposed, there have been many reported accidents and manufacturer recalls. Most accidents can be sourced to runaway reactions, which could happen if the LIBs are overheated or overcharged. This is often accompanied by cell rupture and in extreme cases can lead to ignition, fire and explosions. As an example, the LIB on a Japanese Airline’s Boeing 787 caught fire in January 2013, resulting in FAA grounding all delivered 787 until the overhaul of the problem.

The project aims to deliver a predictive tool, which will be generic across all LIB types for LIB thermal management from the safety perspective. Such a tool can aid the development of safer LIB cells and the optimisation of LIB packs balancing performance and safety requirement. The specific objectives of the research include:

  •  Develop and validate a thermal model to predict the onset of runaway reactions;
  •  Extend the above model to predict potential ignition;
  •  Extend the model to predict possible escalation from cell ignition to pack fire and explosion;
  •  Validate the model with full scale test data giving particular emphasis to cell rupture and the propensity from ignition of a single cell to battery packs; and
  •  Conduct cases studies to formulate recommendations on LIB safety.