Battery technology remains a major challenge for developers of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. With a three- to five-year life span, every hour of battery life counts in determining vehicle cost-effectiveness. Moreover, concentrated temperature gradients, indicating heat buildup within a battery module or across a battery pack, can shorten battery life by causing accelerated corrosion, chemical imbalances, and thermal strains on electrode materials. To address these problems, engineers at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Vehicle Systems Research Department use thermal imaging to better understand how the batteries behave under certain conditions, such as experimental fast-charging completed within 20 minutes or at extreme temperatures. The imaging can rapidly and accurately identify energy-wasting hot spots, unpredictable gradients, and transient behaviors. Without thermal imaging, engineers must use thermocouples placed at a discrete number of sites on the batteries to obtain temperature distributions. Not only is this costly, but thermocouples interfere with the taking of sensitive measurements. FAX Elizabeth Douglas at (210) 522-3547.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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