In April 2021, About:Energy was formed to translate world-leading research out of UK Universities to solve challenges within industry. This ambition has also required the continual development of leading technologies in close collaboration to the research community. We launch the Voltt:Academia as an initiative to foster these collaborations further.
The inspiration for The Voltt came from how difficult we found it as researchers to access high quality battery models (and high quality battery model parameters!) to help us design battery systems. Battery models, created to a high standard, are a fantastic test bed for optimisation of battery technology and, more fundamentally, for the design of experiments.
Experimental design is challenging in the battery field. Endless variables exist. They are often impossible to decouple and therefore failing to control one leads to inaccurate and misleading conclusions as you attempt to observe another. Battery models provide a lower cost alternative, so long as you have confidence in the fundamental performance of the model itself.
I have recently been testing with a distributed network of equivalent circuit models. Equivalent circuit models assume that the voltage-behaviour of a battery can be predicted by a simple electrical circuit and are used widely in industry today. Distributed networks of these simple models (mimicking inhomogeneity that you would see in a real cell) can offer new insight into thermal performance because we can observe temperature gradients through the cell’s volume.
In this model I had to make the assumption that thermal conductivity is 1000x larger than seen in a typical lithium-ion cell. This assumption allowed me to eliminate thermal gradients from the battery, with this I was able to decouple the effects of temperature on inhomogeneous distribution of current, from the effects of tab-weld resistance. This would have been impossible to do in an experiment where thermal gradients exist. The research helped to identify the importance of tab-weld resistance, compared to that of temperature gradients.
High-impact academic research built around battery modelling is an important component of the Faraday Institution’s long-term strategy to develop a strong battery industry in the UK. About:Energy has a strong relationship with the Faraday Institution’s ongoing work with battery modelling. Prof. Greg Offer is the principal investigator for the Multi-scale Modelling project and Prof. Emma Kendrick has been heavily involved in the project since its inception in 2018. I joined the MSM project in April 2023 and am already working closely with other Co-investigators at Oxford, Warwick and Imperial to develop future generations of battery models.
One of About:Energy’s Co-Founders, Kieran O’Regan, was funded by the Faraday Institution for his PhD (supervised by Emma), during which he produced important parameter datasets for the LG Chem M50 cell, that allow anyone to produce an electrochemical model of that cell. The publication of these datasets has gained significant traction across global academic communities. This demonstrates commercially-relevant data is often the barrier to innovation and open-sourcing it has significant value.
About:Energy’s academic research tool, housed in the Voltt, will provide the same high-quality battery model parameters for a vast range of cells, along with battery models to suit all research endeavours. You can check out the Voltt already by signing up here.
Conversations with academic colleagues have highlighted how many ‘battery academics’ teach battery technology at their respective institutions. I run an optional unit available to Masters students studying Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Engineering Mathematics. As part of that unit, I have provided the students with my own (very simple!) battery model, complete with some basic parameter sets for a couple of common types of battery - NMC (power) and LFP (hybrid).
The model, whilst functional, is clunky and has no user interface, meaning that there was a steep learning curve for students to make full use of the model. The students had to install software on their own laptops which limited access to some in the class. Producing the model took a lot of time and used up valuable channels in the lab, which would have otherwise contributed towards research activities.
The Voltt:Academia will be accessible to any student. We will have an online user interface with no software required - all the student needs to do is sign up. We will provide a few sets of high-quality battery model parameters to cover cells for all applications - automotive, energy storage, different chemistries and even beyond lithium-ion. Our aim is to reduce the burden on you. We will include tutorials that the students can follow to get up to speed, allowing them to get everything they can out of the model.
Our hope is that this becomes a valuable educational resource for any student learning about battery technology. Every course is different, and every student learns in their own way. We want to contribute towards effective ‘Learning by Doing’, which can be hard to achieve in the world of battery technology, without extensive laboratory facilities and resources to deliver high-quality lab-based sessions.
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About:Energy is a leading battery software company headquartered in London. The company was founded in 2021 by Gavin White and Kieran O’Regan, two researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham respectively. About:Energy has focused on building a portfolio of battery measurement and modelling capabilities to provide a software solution for battery design.
About:Energy provides organisations with the tools to streamline their R&D, reducing time-to-market and enhancing battery system performance. About:Energy’s data informs better decision-making across the value chain, from mine to end-of-life. These activities include battery system design, lifetime prediction, and cell optimisation. Customers include organisations across the automotive, manufacturing and aerospace industries.