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Singapore develops smart chip that checks battery health

Posted: 27 Nov 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart chip? lithium-ion battery? algorithm? electric vehicle?

A group of scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has developed a chip that tells how healthy a battery is and if it is safe to use.

The smart chip sends out a warning if the battery in a smartphone or an electric vehicle is faulty or at risk of catching fire. Current warning systems only alert users when the battery is already overheating, which may be too late for any remedial action.

Developed by Professor Rachid Yazami of the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N), this smart chip is small enough to be embedded in almost all batteries, from the small batteries in mobile devices to the huge power packs found in electric vehicles and advanced aeroplanes.

"Although the risk of a battery failing and catching fire is very low, with the billions of lithium-ion batteries being produced yearly, even a one-in-a-million chance would mean over a thousand failures," said Yazami, who holds more than 50 patents and has authored more than 200 scientific papers, book chapters and reports on batteries.

Smart chip

This smart chip can tell the health of a battery. (Source: NTU)

"This poses a serious risk for electric vehicles and even in advanced aeroplanes as usually big battery packs have hundreds of cells or more bundled together to power the vehicle or aircraft. If there is a chemical fire caused by a single failed battery, it could cause fires in nearby batteries, leading to an explosion."

Patented technology

Embedded in the smart chip is a proprietary algorithm developed by Yazami that is based on electrochemical thermodynamics measurements (ETM technology).

Current lithium-ion batteries have a chip in them which only shows voltage and temperature readings. Today's battery chips are unable to detect symptoms of a malfunction and can also show only the estimated amount of charge the battery is holding.

In comparison, Yazami's patented algorithm is able to analyse both the state of health and the state of charge through a 3D chart. On a monitor screen, it looks similar to a ski route down a mountain.

Drawing on the analogy of a fingerprint, he said, "The 'ski route' of a brand new battery looks different from those of a degraded or faulty batteryjust like how two fingerprints will look quite different."

"In addition to knowing the degradation of batteries, our technology can also tell the exact state of charge of the battery, and thus optimise the charging so the battery can be maintained in its best condition while being charged faster," added Yazami.

"My vision for the future is that every battery will have this chip, which will in turn reduce the risk of battery fires in electronic devices and electric vehicles while extending their life span."

Worldwide annual production of portable battery cells have been predicted to grow from 13 billion in 2014, to over 35 billion by 2025 according to a report by Avicenne Energy.

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