Current Projects

Ongoing and Future Research

Ongoing and Future Research

The Electrochemical Safety Research Institute (ESRI) continuously researches innovations in technology to mitigate risks to safety and sustainability. Read more about our current projects below. 

Pursuing a safe and efficient way to recycle Lithium-ion batteries

ESRI is working with Rice University in Houston to develop and optimize battery recycling to supplement our limited supply of raw materials and alleviate related economic, environmental, and ethical concerns. In 2022, the ESRI-Rice University collaboration optimized two main approaches. ESRI and Rice University will next expand the project’s scope, focusing on scalability and process and product optimization. 

Paving the way for green hydrogen energy

In an effort to realize the promise of green hydrogen technology, ESRI and University of Houston Assistant Professor Xiaonan Shan launched a collaborative research project in 2022 that aims to develop new materials and methods for producing hydrogen. The project also calls for characterizing the safety of hydrogen energy at all stages of production and while it is stored, transported, and used.

Protecting first responders from thermal runaway’s toxic particles

With the use of lithium-ion batteries on the rise, ESRI is working with Texas-based Southwest Research Institute to study the particulates emitted when those batteries fail and give rise to a process known as thermal runaway. The project measures the concentration, size, and mass of these particulates at both the single-cell and module levels, adding depth to research literature that has largely focused on characterizing the gases rather than the particulates released during thermal runaway. 

Studies on the safety of fast charging in Lithium-ion cells with Purdue University

Fast charge has become an area of interest due to the range anxiety from customers of EVs. Not all lithium-ion cell designs used in the EV batteries are capable of accepting fast charge in a safe manner.  Two cell designs are under study to characterize the electrochemical and morphological changes that occur due to fast charge. Cells are subjected to two different fast charge protocols with continuous cycle life testing and compared to a baseline protocol that was close to that recommended by the manufacturer.

Lithium-ion internal short safety study with Purdue University

The internal short hazard caused due to internal defects or due to misuse has been an ambiguous area for many years. Simulation of internal shorts leads to catastrophic thermal runaway, however, since the event of a catastrophic failure leaves little or no evidence due to the complete destruction of the battery, it is not easy to directly link an internal short cause to the catastrophic failure.  This study is a comprehensive one where different methods will be used to simulate internal shorts and cycle life testing carried out on the cells with the simulated shorts to see if during the cycle life period, one can recognize the change from normal performance to a catastrophic failure event.

Fire and smoke characterization of Li-ion cells with modeling studies with Case Western Reserve University

To understand the failure conditions and degradation modes associated with over discharging Li-ion cells to various levels of overdischarge with continued cycle life. Another independent study was carried out to understand the failure modes related the overcharging of Li-ion cells to various levels with continuous cycle life. 

Research collaborator and member of the Innovative Materials Discovery and Design Institute – recycling and Lithium-metal research studies with UC San Diego

The project with Professor Shirley Meng's team at University of California San Diego under the IMDD is studying the cathode and anode electrolyte interface in an attempt to understand the loss of lithium ions when solid electrolytes are used instead of the traditional liquid electrolyte systems.

Mitigation of thermal runaway using different materials with NASA Johnson Space Center

Materials and various designs from several manufacturers have been studied in small shipping packages of lithium-ion cells to determine their efficacy in preventing propagation of thermal runaway when a single cell in the package is triggered to go into thermal runaway.

Destructive analysis and elemental and material analysis (components of a cell) with NASA Johnson Space Center

Cell components from fresh and aged or those subjected to off-nominal conditions are analyzed to understand the physico-chemical changes that occur.

Safety of micro-USB Li-ion batteries with NASA Johnson Space Center

Micro-USB Li-ion batteries are the latest devices in the market where the lithium-ion cells come fitted with a USB port for direct charging of the cell through any USB power supply. The safety of these new devices under off-nominal conditions will be studied this year.

Thermal runaway propagation in Li-based cell packages (for G27 and UN IWG) with Stress Engineering Services

As part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) effort to improve safety, test standards (SAE G27 committee) are being written to confirm safety of shipping packages. Under this test program, the protocols defined in the standard are verifed to be repeatable and reproducible and provide feedback on any refinement that may be needed for the setup and protocols defined in the standard. The UL team is a member of the ICAO / SAE G27 committee that is writing the standard.

Flow battery safety with Stress Engineering Services

Flow batteries are currently used in large MegaWatt and GigaWatt size grid energy storage systems. However, their safety under off-nominal conditions has not been studied. This program involves the study of the safety of lab-scale vanadium-based as well as commercial zinc-bromide flow batteries under off-nominal conditions.

Fire characterization research in Li-ion batteries with UL LLC fire research team

To characterize fires in Li-ion batteries of various chemistries, formats and at different states of charge.