National Laboratories’ Battery Abuse Testing Laboratory is undergoing a major
renovation so Sandia researchers can test larger batteries for electric and plug-in
hybrid electric vehicles.
facility for battery testing was built in 1991, and has conducted thousands of
critical scientific studies to evaluate the safety of batteries under every
imaginable abuse scenario that a battery might face. Those studies included 12
years of testing for the FreedomCAR program and the U.S. Advanced Battery
million overhaul, paid for with federal stimulus funds, includes updating test
bays, data acquisition systems and laboratory space, and hiring additional
staff members to meet the growing demand for Sandia’s battery safety expertise.
bring our capabilities up to the point where we can test larger batteries that
are going to be relevant to the electric vehicle market, and move up to batteries
that will be used in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles,” says Chris Orendorff,
team lead for the Battery Abuse Testing Lab. “We’ll have the capability to test
batteries in the 5 kW to 15 kW per hour range, which we’ve never done before.
This scale of testing is critical to the deployment of electric vehicles that
are needed to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”
visit to Sandia in November 2009, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman
announced the Battery Abuse Testing Lab funding as part of a $104.7 million
stimulus package whose goal is to advance national clean energy and technology
efficiency across seven Department of Energy (DOE) national labs. The Battery
Abuse Testing Lab’s share is paying for much-needed upgrades to the lab, along
with several new lab positions and sustaining about 50 construction-related
been a great way to do our part in putting people in the community to work and
keep them working,” says Charles Tomlin, construction manager for the project. “We’ve worked with 11 architects and engineers and about 30 to 40 construction
contractors and vendors, and we expect to be done with construction three
months ahead of schedule.”
upgrades include an X-ray computerized tomography system that will generate 3D
images to allow researchers to conduct failure analysis without doing physical
analysis, which can be destructive. The lab’s battery calorimetry capabilities
will be the world’s largest and will include six accelerating rate calorimeters
(ARCs), three isothermal battery calorimeters, one microcalorimeter, and one
differential scanning calorimeter, all of which will be consolidated and housed
in the new facility. New spectrometers and laser diagnostics for gas
measurements, upgrades to the scrubber system, and additional battery cyclers,
supporting higher-energy batteries, are also on the lab’s roster of new
his team are already internationally recognized for their work. The
recapitalization will allow us to sustain that leadership position in battery
safety research and continue to develop new diagnostic techniques that are
needed by domestic automotive manufacturers and their battery suppliers,” says
Tom Wunsch, manager of Sandia’s battery research efforts.
the nation’s leading battery abuse testing center for the past two decades has
taken its toll. Inside the 2,000-pound blast doors, the need for upgrades is
readily apparent. The test bays bear witness to the years of battery abuse
testing, and resultant fires, smoke, and violent decomposition events. Much of
the equipment is original and must be modernized to meet the nation’s growing
energy storage needs.
remodeled bays have been completely stripped clean, coated in an epoxy paint to
make cleanup easier, with new explosion-proof lights and a new carbon-dioxide
fire suppression system that can be engaged manually or automatically to
quickly bring large fires under control.
addition to the fire suppression system, we have moved all of the live power
out of the test bays, except for the temporary power required for any given
test. This allows us to safely cut power to the unit undergoing testing should
safety concerns warrant,” says Bill Averill, who oversees day-to-day operations
of the lab while providing technical battery testing support.
acquisition systems will ensure a much more precise readout of results. The new
systems will also help with efficiency, reducing set-up time by as much as a
day, which will increase throughput six times. “The bays will be hard-wired and
ready to go, so we can bring in batteries, connect them to the testers and
start testing,” Orendorff says. “We can also run multiple tests simultaneously,
which we’ve never been able to do before. These kinds of streamlined test capabilities
will help expand our customer base, increase throughput for the lab, and will
enable us to provide more support for industry.”
much of the battery lab’s testing is done for private companies, the area
outside the control room will have two new 42-inch monitors so visitors can
watch the test.
the lab is unmistakably a construction zone, testing is still being conducted
in half of the lab while the other half is overhauled. Construction crews work
from early morning until the early afternoon, at which time the laboratory team
sets up and conducts tests.
started in December 2010, and completion is scheduled for September 2012, but
the work will likely be complete this summer. Orendorff expects the lab to be
fully operational by March 2012.
these are Recovery Act funds, we realize the importance of trying to get this
spent on American jobs and American equipment. We are doing everything we can
to get that done as quickly and responsibly as possible,” Orendorff says. About
half the equipment funds were spent in the first six months of the project. “Getting this money out into the economy is one of the DOE’s priorities, and
we’ve worked pretty hard to do that.”