Tech Student Designs Test To Study Failing Batteries

SOCORRO, N.M. October 8, 2015 – Mechanical Engineering student Austin Mier has developed a new experiment that will help scientists understand what happens when batteries fail.

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Austin Mier, senior in mechanical engineering, explains the test chamber he designed and built.


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This test chamber was designed to see what happens when lithium-ion batteries are tested to failure. 


Working with faculty member Dr. Michael Hargather, Mier has designed and built a test chamber that allows for high-speed imaging of lithium-ion batteries as they are tested to failure.

"Essentially, we give the batteries too much voltage – above their rated voltage," Mier said. "We know how to get them to fail. We want to know what happens when they fail."

This project is funded by the Office of Naval Research with a $40,000, eight-month contract. Hargather said the Navy is interested to see if these batteries, which are widely are used on ships, actually explode.

"If batteries explode, that would be bad in an enclosed environment, or successive battery failures if you have an array of batteries," Hargather said. "As batteries fail, we can see if they vent gas and how fast. We can measure the pressure build-up within the compartment."

Mier designed the test chamber which is 10" x 10" x 30" with steel walls and four windows for two axes of schlieren imaging with cameras capable of over 1 million frames per second. He also designed the data acquisition system to measure voltage, current, temperature, and pressure during the tests.

"Austin has been working on this all summer and into the fall semester," Hargather said. "He is doing excellent research as an undergraduate student."

Mier recently finished fabricating the testing apparatus and is nearly ready to run experiments. A native of San Carlos, Calif., Mier came to New Mexico Tech for the explosives program.

"I know I wanted to go into research, so this is exactly what I want to be doing," he said. "I plan on going to graduate school here, so this is a great introduction to doing research in explosives testing."

– NMT –