Embedded Fiber Optic Sensing System for Battery Packs

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
Smart Embedded Network of Sensors with Optical Readout (SENSOR)
Image of PARC's technology
ARPA-E Award: 
Palo Alto, CA
Project Term: 
10/01/2012 to 09/30/2015
Project Status: 
Critical Need: 
Today's electric vehicle batteries are expensive and prone to unexpected failure. Batteries are complex systems, and developing techniques to cost-effectively monitor and manage important performance measures while predicting battery cell degradation and failure remains a key technological challenge. There is a critical need for breakthrough technologies that can be practically deployed for superior management of both electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy storage systems.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
PARC is developing new fiber optic sensors that would be embedded into batteries to monitor and measure key internal parameters during charge and discharge cycles. Two significant problems with today's best batteries are their lack of internal monitoring capabilities and their design oversizing. The lack of monitoring interferes with the ability to identify and manage performance or safety issues as they arise, which are presently managed by very conservative design oversizing and protection approaches that result in cost inefficiencies. PARC's design combines low-cost, embedded optical battery sensors and smart algorithms to overcome challenges faced by today's best battery management systems. These advanced fiber optic sensing technologies have the potential to dramatically improve the safety, performance, and life-time of energy storage systems.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, PARC's compact fiber optic sensing system would actively assess the battery's state and health with high accuracy while in use to avoid degradation and/or failure during use. Additionally, the new system could help to reduce design oversizing by more than 25%, resulting in a significant reduction in the price of electrical energy storage systems.
Advances in energy storage management could reduce the cost and increase the adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage technologies, which in turn would reduce our nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Improving the reliability and safety of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage facilities would enable more widespread use of these technologies, resulting in a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Enabling alternatives to conventional sources of energy could insulate consumers, businesses, and utilities from unexpected price swings.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact: 
Dr. Ajay Raghavan
LG Chem Power Inc. (LGCPI)