Center for Ageing, Reliability and Lifetime Prediction of Electrochemical and Power Electronic Systems

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A center for fundamental research into the aging of battery materials and power electronic systems is currently being established at RWTH Aachen University. The Science Council has approved the "Center for Ageing, Reliability and Lifetime Prediction of Electrochemical and Power Electronic Systems", CARL for short.

It is an interdisciplinary research facility where staff from ten core professorships and around 20 other chairs and institutes at RWTH and Forschungszentrum Jülich can conduct groundbreaking research. These include scientists from the disciplines of chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science or materials science, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

"Battery aging and lifetime prediction of power electronics are topics that have been studied in Aachen at the Institute for Power Electronics and Electrical Drives, ISEA, since the 1980s," says ISEA director Professor Rik De Doncker. "With CARL, however, there will be a holistic approach for the first time in Germany." The focus will be on the complete process chain from production to application, as well as the life cycle of all materials and components. "We want to understand down to the atomic and crystal level how energy storage systems function and respond to different requirements," says Professor Dirk Uwe Sauer of ISEA, explaining the basic idea behind CARL. "Very similar, for example, are the questions of interconnections for power semiconductors such as those used in electric vehicles or wind turbines. Only when we know the physical-chemical processes can we produce systems that work without overcapacities or redundancies." Sauer is the spokesman for the project and has played a key role in developing it based on his many years of experience, which already go back to his doctoral days and various projects over the past 13 years at ISEA.

At CARL, two perspectives are considered: that of the end users on the one hand and that of the developers of machines and materials for manufacturing batteries and power electronics on the other. "With our research results, we can help accelerate development cycles and ultimately save money by optimally configuring systems," says Sauer. After all, the question of service life is essential for economic considerations. For example, it is important for car manufacturers to be able to estimate depreciation periods, warranty services and reliability as part of functional safety.

Three laboratory areas form the heart of the project

The funding will be used to construct three large laboratory areas that will form the actual heart of CARL. The first will feature test benches for load and environmental simulations. For example, they will be used to study electrical, mechanical, chemical or climatic influences on the materials and systems of batteries and power electronics. Here, aging processes are run and analyzed virtually in fast motion in order to be able to explore their causes in detail.
The second laboratory area deals with the construction of prototypes. The performance of entire systems or even individual components is to be examined here in order, for example, to be able to rule out material or design errors at an early stage.

Finally, the third laboratory area is dedicated to physical-electrochemical analysis. With the aid of an analysis chain for structural and material investigations, which will include a state-of-the-art computer tomograph with unprecedented resolution, the structures of the material can be examined and analyzed down to atomic resolution.