Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, have developed an inexpensive sensor that can warn of impending catastrophic failure in lithium-ion batteries. The sensor is based on the researchers’ discovery of an intrinsic relationship between the internal temperature of lithium-ion cells and an easily measured electrical parameter of the cell.
Due to their high energy density, lithium-ion batteries power millions of consumer electronic devices and are the most common type of battery used in hybrid and electric vehicles. They are also growing in popularity for power grid, military, and aerospace applications. But safety concerns remain a challenge to the industry. Battery failure and fires in electric vehicles, mobile phones and laptop computers have been reported in the media. Such failures typically result from thermal runaway, a self-perpetuating condition that occurs once a cell reaches a critical temperature.