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John O | March 2018

Lighter, simpler cooling system promises more efficient hybrid vehicle batteries

by josh perry, editor


researchers at embry-riddle aeronautical university (daytona, fla.) are working towards incorporating phase-change materials into cooling systems for the batteries of hybrid and electric vehicles to increase performance and efficiency, while making the cars lighter and cheaper to make.


the phase-change material team includes, from left to right, david spitzer, sandra boetcher, tami green, thomas freeman and patrick currier. (embry-riddle aeronautical university)


according to a report from the university, the research is ongoing at the school’s john mica engineering and aerospace innovation complex (mixcaplex) as part of its ecocar program.


instead of relying on large, complex liquid cooling solutions, which require numerous components and contain several potential failure points, the embry-riddle researchers are suggesting an oil that is a waxy solid at room temperature with a low melting point and a high specific heat capacity.


“pcm isn’t new,” the report explained, “but it’s proved challenging to use to cool batteries because it turns liquid under use. for ecocar 3, the team purchased large battery modules and began looking for a method to extract the heat from them.”


researchers melted phase-change material pellets and poured the liquid into an aluminum tray. mixing phase-change materials allowed the team to create a batch that melts at 45°c. using a rubber seal and an aluminum plate on top, the team created a cold plate that does not require additional power to work.


“the cold plate is sized to absorb the heat released by the batteries in nearly all scenarios, “the report added. “that heat radiates into the air, and a small, traditional water-cooling system acts as a fail-safe. the design was successfully tested in the ecocar 3 competition in desert temperatures in yuma, ariz.”


a patent has been received for the phase-change material cold plate.


the latest work on the cold plate is studying the viability of 3-d printing the thermal solution by mixing the phase-change material with high-density polyethylene (hdpe) in a filament extruder. the team is studying the melting point and other properties of the material.

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