To test a 9V battery's charge, my older brother made me touch the terminals with my tongue. If I jumped, the battery still had voltage. If I stood still, it was dead. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) built a new, state-of-the-art battery testing facility to do the job instead. The group hopes the facility will help engineers design better battery modules and packs for vehicles of the future. Predicting, measuring and controlling the temperature of batteries used in electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles can help improve vehicle performance by 20 to 30 percent. The core of the facility is a uniquely developed calorimeter and cycler. The calorimeter, an enclosed device that measures heat generation in any battery material under a variety of conditions, allows for the control of outside, ambient heat sources that could affect thermal reading from the battery. The cycler both charges and draws current from a battery, allowing for thermal testing of any voltage. It can also be used to test the performance and life cycles of battery modules and packs. Researchers use thermal imaging techniques to visually evaluate the behavior of modules under a variety of cycling profiles. Heat transfer and fluid flow experiments are used to design battery packs. The laboratory's computer-aided design expertise can project thermal performance of modules and packs and address structural and packaging issues. NREL's techniques can also be applied to fuel cells, ultra-capacitors, and energy storage for power tools. Visit: www.ctts.nrel.gov/BTM.
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