Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are incredibly popular these days in laptops, cell phones, iPods, and electric and hybrid cars, but those same batteries can also be a danger to humans in the rare instances when they explode. Dr. Qing Hao, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, is using Research Computing resources here at the University of Arizona to study what causes those potentially harmful explosions.
The research computing facility on the UA campus allows Dr. Hao to utilize the supercomputing resources for free or at a fraction of the cost it would take to fund such a resource on his own. Since the computational resources are readily available, he is able to use the funding he receives from grants on other projects and reduce the cost of this expensive project.
Computational resources are critical to Hao’s current research efforts on heat conservation, storage, and conversion. Hao and his team are trying to understand why the heat in the lithium-ion battery keeps accumulating, which then triggers a strong chemical reaction causing the explosion. Their goal is to understand where that heat transfer is being blocked and how to move those bottlenecks so the heat can be effectively rejected to the environment.
Currently the highest priority for manufacturers has switched from the energy density and cost of Li-ion batteries to their thermal safety, reliability, and durability. Hao says, “Very limited research has been carried out on the heat transfer aspect of Li-ion batteries. Our goal is to help improve the thermal safety of the battery, so that recalls from companies like Sony and Apple do not have to happen.” Such issues will be addressed in simulations combined with more accurate thermal property measurements on various battery components. These efforts will directly help the thermal design of next-generation Li-ion batteries.
Disciplines across campus utilize Research Computing resources. The services are free of charge to any UA researcher with a need for HPC/HTC (High Performance Computing/High Throughput Computing) systems. The new Research Data Center opened in February 2012 with five HPC/HTC systems including an affordable buy-in option for projects requiring high priority computing time. For more information on how to gain access to these systems visit HPC/HTC Getting Started.