Keith Hautala

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CAER Researcher Seeks Safer Batteries for Underground Mine Use

Published: Sep 11, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 11, 2013) — A researcher at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research is looking for ways to make lithium-ion batteries safer to use in underground mine settings. 

 

Steve Lipka, CAER associate director for electrochemical power sources, was awarded a two-year, $389,000 grant from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for the project, titled "Evaluating the Inherent Safety of Lithium-ion Batteries in Portable Electronics Used in Underground Mine Environments." 

 

Lithium-ion batteries are used in portable electronic devices such as hand-held gas detectors, cap lamps, hand tools, communications devices and tracking devices. Lipka and his colleagues at CAER will study their risk as a potential ignition source in an underground mine where there is a flammable mixture of methane gas and air. 

 

In a catastrophic event, the battery can sustain mechanical damage, resulting in reactions between active battery materials and the highly volatile and flammable organic electrolyte.  These reactions can result in rising cell temperatures which accelerate further chemical reactions in the battery causing heat and gas generation. The project will evaluate the ignition potential of various lithium-ion battery chemistries, in both cylindrical and prismatic cell formats, in a simulated underground mine environment under mechanical damage. 

 

Lipka’s group will recommend safer lithium-ion battery chemistries and use in portable devices. The researchers will also develop strategies to stop or reduce potential ignition for lithium-ion batteries used in underground mines.

 

Professor Thomas Novak of UK’s Department of Mining Engineering will serve as a project consultant.

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Marybeth McAlister, 859-257-0224; marybeth.mcalister@uky.edu

 

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