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PARC Awarded $4M by ARPA-E to Develop Technologies to Improve Battery Performance
Innovative Sensors Enable Batteries to Achieve Full Potential for Electric Vehicles and Grid Storage

19 September 2012

Palo Alto, California – PARC, a Xerox company, today announced it has signed a $4M contract with the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under the program for Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED). PARC, along with project partner LG Chem Power Inc. (LGCPI), a subsidiary of LG Chem, will develop a fiber optic monitoring system capable of providing detailed information about the internal condition of batteries to allow them to perform better in applications, such as electric vehicles (EVs).

“The ability to accurately measure what is going on inside a battery will have immediate benefits for battery size, weight, cost, safety, and reliability,” said Rob McHenry, PARC’s Energy Technology Program Manager. “One of the reasons that EV battery systems are so expensive is that very conservative design and safety approaches are required to compensate for the lack of real-time information about what is happening inside the cells during operation. The harsh electrochemical environment and other demanding constraints prevent conventional sensors from working, so we’re left to infer the true conditions inside the batteries through external readings like current and voltage. The uncertainty of these inferences means that batteries must be oversized significantly to guarantee reliability and safety. PARC’s fiber optic sensing system can change that by measuring internal conditions with unprecedented accuracy, allowing designers to more fully use a battery’s true capabilities while simultaneously improving safety.”

“If successful, the advanced sensing, diagnostic, and control technologies developed under the AMPED program will allow us to unlock enormous untapped potential in the performance, safety, and lifetime of today's commercial battery systems,” said Ilan Gur, Program Director, ARPA-E. “My hope is that these cutting-edge projects will accelerate the impact of vehicle and grid-scale energy storage in reducing our country's reliance on imported fuels and improving the safety, security, and economic efficiency of our electricity grid.”

ARPA-E will fund the development and demonstration of a complete battery sensor prototype, including new fiber optic sensing elements, a design to cost-effectively integrate hair-thin optical fibers into battery cells and packs, a compact optical read-out unit to measure the signals, and the intelligent algorithms that can make sense of the measurements to effectively control the battery.

“The key to this project is the ability to combine the interdisciplinary strengths of several of PARC’s research areas,” explained Ajay Raghavan, PARC researcher and principal investigator leading the effort. “We’re doing our own research at PARC on how to build better batteries, so we have a good understanding of the physics. We have a well-established Opto-Electronics Program that has developed an incredibly compact and low-cost read-out unit that eliminates the cost barrier usually associated with fiber optics. That group will also lead the development of the specific fiber optic sensors, which are robust to the harsh internal battery environment. We’ll also build on our long history in Intelligent Automation to develop smart algorithms that interpret signals to accurately estimate the overall state-of-charge, state-of-health, and time to discharge of the battery that an EV driver cares about.”

LGCPI, the leading U.S. manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for EVs, will work with PARC to develop the system and conduct testing to validate that it is robust and cost effective for the commercial market.

About PARC
PARC, a Xerox company, is in the Business of Breakthroughs®. Practicing open innovation, we provide custom R&D services, technology, expertise, best practices, and intellectual property to Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, startups, and government agencies and partners. We create new business options, accelerate time to market, augment internal capabilities, and reduce risk for our clients. Since its inception, PARC has pioneered many technology platforms – from the Ethernet and laser printing to the GUI and ubiquitous computing – and has enabled the creation of many industries. Incorporated as an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox in 2002, PARC today continues the research that enables breakthroughs for our clients' businesses.

PR contact

Kelly Brieger
KBPR for PARC, a Xerox company 
650-704-1748
kelly@kbpr.net