Dr. Steve Lipka, CAER Associate Director for Electrochemical Power Sources, has been awarded a 2 year, $389,000 grant from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  The title of the project is “Evaluating the Inherent Safety of Lithium-ion Batteries in Portable Electronics Used in Underground Mine Environments.”

 This project will help to understand the safety of Li-ion battery chemistries used in portable electronic devices such as hand-held gas detectors, cap lamps, hand tools, communications devices, and tracking devices and their potential risk as an ignition source in an underground mine where there is a mixture of methane 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 Li-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.