Williams Advanced Engineering and Imperial College London have joined forces to advance a Faraday Institute-funded research project into safer, more efficient batteries, the Oxfordshire-based technology and engineering company has disclosed.
The company said it is collaborating with Imperial College London to advance the understanding of the initiation and propagation of thermal runaway. They are developing a first-of-a-kind multiphase multiphysics model of battery failure via thermal runaway, a self-sustaining cascade of exothermic reactions that produce large volumes of gas.
Simply put, thermal runaway is caused by battery failure (triggered by internal short circuit, poor maintenance, physical damage or unsafe outside temperatures), leading to a chain reaction within its cells, which creates extremely high temperatures as the energy stored within is released suddenly. It also creates a fire risk.
“Applying the multiphase multiphysics modelling toolsets will enable the design of safer battery packs with fewer iterations and physical tests, saving time, costs and materials,” the company said.
The proposed model will consider gas dynamics and its interactions with electrochemical and thermal behaviours, with the goal of advancing the understanding of initiation and propagation of the thermal runaway processes and accelerate the design of countermeasures, the company said.
The programme complements the Faraday Institution’s Multi-Scale Modelling and SafeBatt projects. The mutual goal of the partners is to offer greater battery safety and longevity.
“We are confident that the proposed study will bring tangible economic and environmental benefits,” said Rob Millar, Head of Electrification, Williams Advanced Engineering.
WAE will provide thermal runaway/propagation test data, while the battery team will provide technical knowledge and industrial experience on battery safety designs helping steer the project to success.
Project leader Dr Huizhi Wang of Imperial College London said the research will help address the key knowledge gaps in battery safety modelling. “Understanding and modelling thermal runaway plays a crucial role in guiding the development of safer batteries but remains challenging due to the complexity of the process,” she said.