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Battery protection IC delivers fault monitoring

Posted: 27 Jul 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:battery protection IC? Li-ion? automotive?

MAX11080 battery-protection IC

From Maxim Integrated Products comes what it claims to be the first stackable Li-ion battery pack fault monitor. The MAX11080, a high-voltage, 12-channel battery-protection IC for high-cell-count Li-ion battery stacks, provides redundant cell monitoring to prevent Li+ batteries from exploding due to thermal runaway.

As many as 31 MAX11080s can be daisy-chained together to monitor as many as 372 cells. This capability prevents cascading electrical failures and eliminates the expensive isolation components required by discrete solutions. In a typical hybrid car, Maxim's solution reduces the cost of the battery-management system by up to 80 percent. The chip offers accuracy, ultralow-power consumption, built-in safety and self-diagnostic features, and configurability. It solves the problems associated with safely monitoring large battery stacks, and is suited for a spectrum of battery applications including automotive, industrial, power line, and battery backup.

Energy trends
The overall energy storage market will grow by 55 percent to $64 billion by 2012, according to market watcher Lux Research. Energy storage technologies are critical to enabling the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and as green initiatives gain popularity among consumers and governments worldwide, the growth is to be expected. The transportation energy storage market is expected to grow from $12.9 billion in 2007 to $19.9 billion in 2012 to meet the increasing demand for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

Though NiMH was the battery chemistry of choice in the first HEVs, Li+ batteries are expected to dominate the market by 2015, as they offer a higher energy density and, therefore, longer per-charge driving range. Lux Research predicts that Li+ battery sales will jump from $6.8 billion in 2007 sales to $16.9 billion in 2012.

But Li+ batteries are volatile and require careful design and sophisticated monitoring schemes to ensure safe operation. Cell overvoltages can cause a rapid increase in cell temperature, producing a thermal-runaway condition in which gases are vented. Since HEVs often require hundreds of cells in series, the consequences of a failure are substantial: a fault in one cell could cause the entire battery pack to burn or explode.

Today battery pack designers invest a tremendous amount of time and resources to ensure the absolute safety of their stacks. Typical protection circuits employ multiple 3- or 4-channel fault monitors with costly galvanic isolators between the monitors and an assortment of analog and passive components (resistors, multiplexers, etc.). These circuits are bulky and costly, not to mention time intensive.

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