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Nanyang Technological University Smart Chip tells you how healthy your battery is

25th November 2015, SINGAPORE - A new smart chip developed by Professor Rachid Yazami of the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) is smart enough to derive the entropymetry of battery life and for safety enhancement. The smart chip is also 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 aircrafts. Current lithium-ion batteries have a chip in them which only shows voltage and temperature readings, but are not able to detect symptoms.

Prof Yazami, a pioneer in battery research, has been in NTU Singapore since 2010. In 2014, Prof. Yazami won the Draper Prize for Engineering awarded by the Washington-based National Academy of Engineering for being one of the three founders of lithium-ion battery. The prestigious award recognized his discovery in the 1980s in making lithium-ion batteries safely rechargeable, paving the way for its universal use today.

'I have always been very concern about the safety of lithium batteries,' said Prof Yazami. '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 change would mean over a thousand failures.'

'This poses a serious risk for electric vehicles and even in advanced aircrafts as usually big battery packs have hundreds of cells or more bundled together to power a 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,' explained by Prof Yazami as a dominos-effect.

Embedded in the smart chip is a proprietary algorithm developed by Prof Yazami that is based on electrochemical thermodynamics measurements (ETM technology). 'It is long known that from entropy we can derive the status of health of a battery. Together with the given readings of voltage and temperature, we can now derive entropy and know the battery's health status. The fingerprint of the battery can be obtained using this small chip embedded to the battery and the software. ' His research incorporates two unique factors: entropy and enthalpy.

Prof Yazami's patented algorithm analyzes both the state of health and the state of charge through a 3-dimensional chart. On the monitor screen, it looks similar to a ski route down a mountain.

Drawing on the analogy of a fingerprint, he said, 'The 'ski-route' of a brand new battery looks different from those of a degraded or faulty battery- just like how two fingerprints will look quite different.'

Spin-off enterprise, new smart chip is on track for commercialisation

The smart chip took Prof Yazami more than five years to develop and it is now marketed by his start-up, KVI Pte Ltd. Working together with Prof Yazami on developing the smart chip platform at ERIAN is research scientist Mr Sohaib El Outmani.

Worldwide annual production of portable battery cells have been predicted to grow from 13 billion in 2014 to over 35 billion by 2025. This innovation is expected to be valued at US$ 625 million in year 2020 with 0.6% market penetration or US$ 3 billion with 0.7% market penetration.

'My vision for the future is that every battery will have this chip, which will in turn reduce the risk of battery fires in electronic devices and electric vehicles while extending their life span,' said Prof Yazami.

Prof. Yazami holds more than 50 patents and has authored more than 200 scientific papers, book chapters and reports on batteries. His start-up company KVI is now being incubated by NTU's commercialization arm, NTUitive. 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. KVI has an exclusive license on Prof Yazami's ETM technology which is based on his research done in NTU Singapore, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

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

Source: Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
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