Johnson Controls debuts early warning system for lithium-ion battery failure, thermal runaway

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Johnson Controls has introduced a system for the early detection of battery failures in lithium-ion energy storage systems (ESS) and other lithium-ion battery applications such as UPS systems in data centers and manufacturing plants. By monitoring and mitigating battery failure before it becomes a fire hazard, the lithium-ion risk prevention system offers immense safety value for the energy storage industry, which is growing rapidly due to global emission reduction targets in the generation of renewable energy – especially sun and wind.

Johnson Controls’ lithium-ion risk prevention system can be easily integrated into existing energy storage systems, as no electrical or mechanical contact with battery cells is required.

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The risk behind lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries provide an affordable energy storage solution for solar projects, but they also pose a serious risk if battery abuse occurs due to mechanical damage, charging failure, manufacturing defects, or external heat. Battery abuse can lead to thermal runaway – a dangerous chemical reaction within a battery cell that quickly spreads to neighboring cells. As they spread, these cells collectively generate heat and smoke, which can potentially lead to a fire event.

To prevent catastrophic loss of assets, it is of the utmost importance that battery cell malfunctions are detected and mitigated prior to events that can lead to thermal runaway. This is best achieved by actively monitoring for lithium-ion exhaust gases that arise shortly after a cell malfunction occurs.

Fully integrated early warning solution. The Johnson Controls lithium-ion risk prevention system has monitoring and reference sensors that continuously check battery racks for the presence of lithium-ion exhaust gases. The reference sensors supply ambient air data to the controller, while the monitoring sensors in the battery racks collect data relating to the air directly next to the lithium-ion batteries. The sensors detect lithium-ion exhaust gases at a concentration of only one part per million (ppm) and are compatible with all lithium-ion chemicals.

When the sensors detect exhaust gas, they immediately and automatically communicate with the battery management system in order to switch off the affected battery pack and prevent thermal runaway. In applications where exhaust gases can form and cannot be externally vented, an inerting system can be used to prevent the exhaust gases from igniting. Early intervention helps protect valuable assets – it extends the life of energy storage systems and keeps the surrounding assets intact.

“The unique three-tier risk prevention system integrates emissions monitoring and early intervention with traditional fire detection and suppression methods,” said Derek Sandahl, Senior Product Manager at Johnson Controls. “The individual system with monitoring can be fed into a building management system so that all information on the battery status is provided quickly and the system can react appropriately.”

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