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Smart chip tells you how healthy your battery is

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore), led by Professor Rachid Yazami, have developed a smart chip which can tell you how healthy your battery is and if it is safe for use.

Current warning systems only alert users when the battery is already overheating which may be too late for remedial action. Prof Yazami’s chip sends a warning message before a fault or fire occur and is small enough to be embedded in almost all batteries, from the small batteries in mobile devices to the huge power packs found in electric vehicles and advanced aeroplanes.

“Although the risk of a battery failing and catching fire is very low, with the billions of lithium-ion batteries being produced yearly, even a one-in-a-million chance would mean over a thousand failures,” explained Prof Yazami.

“This poses a serious risk for electric vehicles and even in advanced aeroplanes as usually big battery packs have hundreds of cells or more bundled together to power the vehicle or aircraft. If there is a chemical fire caused by a single failed battery, it could cause fires in nearby batteries, leading to an explosion.”

Embedded in the smart chip is a proprietary algorithm developed by Prof Yazami that is based on electrochemical thermodynamics measurements (ETM technology).

Current li-ion batteries have a chip in them which only shows voltage and temperature readings. Today’s battery chips are unable to detect symptoms of a malfunction and can also show only the estimated amount of charge the battery is holding. In comparison, Prof Yazami’s algorithm is able to analyse both the state of health and the state of charge through a 3-dimensional chart.

Prof Yazami continued: “In addition to knowing the degradation of batteries, our technology can also tell the exact state of charge of the battery, and thus optimise the charging so the battery can be maintained in its best condition while being charged faster.”

The smart chip took Prof Yazami more than five years to develop and is now marketed by his start-up, KVI Pte. KVI is developing this chip into a series of products, which include battery packs for recharging mobile devices, charge gauge for electric vehicles, and a smart chip for every battery.

It is expected that the technology will be made available for licensing by chipmakers and battery manufacturers before the end of 2016.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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