AMS Colloquium: Exploring Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-Ion batteries appear in nearly every piece of modern technology: phones, laptops, digital cameras, cordless drills, electric vehicles, and airplanes. Professor John Berger from the Colorado School of Mines Department of Mechanical Engineering presented as part of the Applied Mathematics and Statistics (AMS) Colloquium series. Berger’s presentation focused on the stresses due to intercalation and phase transformation in lithium-ion battery cathodes. Along with Mechanical Engineering PhD student at Mines, Veruska Malavé, Professor Robert Kee, and Research Associate Professor Huayang Zhu, Berger is researching the impacts of the above stresses on lithium-ion battery materials.

On a small scale, lithium-ion malfunctions mean little than more poor battery life or a broken device, but on a larger scale, malfunctions can be catastrophic. In January, a fire broke out onboard a Boeing Dreamliner forcing Boeing to ground its entire fleet of 787s. The plane’s lithium-ion battery packs were ultimately blamed for the blaze. Berger’s team’s research focuses on the strains due to phase-transformations that can cause these battery packs to malfunction.

“We’re interested in mechanical degradation of these particles,” Berger said. “There are a number of different mechanisms that are responsible for mechanical degradation. There are mechanical strains, thermal strains, and chemical strains. It’s a fairly complicated mechanical situation.”

The US Office of Naval Research funds the team’s research, and collaborates heavily with ANSYS, a simulation software company based out of Pennsylvania.
The next AMS Colloquium, scheduled for Oct. 18, will feature Scott Frank of Marist College.

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