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.
Two researchers from Cornell University have won a $100,000 grant from NASA to continue work to develop an energy-harvesting robotic eel the space agency aims to use to explore oceans on one of the moons of Jupiter.
Is the factory smarter than it used to be? From recent buzzwords, you’d think we’ve entered a new dimension in industrial plants, where robots run all physical functions wirelessly and humans do little more than program ever more capable robotics. Some of that is actually true, but it’s been true for a while.
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