Williams Advanced Engineering modeling thermal runaway in batteries

Company is collaborating with Imperial College London

Imperial College London and Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) are working on a project to bridge the gap between thermofluid science and battery electrochemistry; developing what it called a first-of-a-kind multiphase multiphysics model of battery failure via thermal runaway – a self-sustaining cascade of exothermic reactions (i.e., a fire) that produce large volumes of gas.

London WAE is working with the Electrochemical Science and Engineering research group at Imperial College London for battery research. (Photo: Imperial College London)

The model will consider gas dynamics and its interactions with electrochemical and thermal behaviors, with the goal of advancing the understanding of initiation and propagation of the thermal runaway processes and accelerate the design of countermeasures.

WAE said the work that the Electrochemical Science and Engineering research group at Imperial College London has achieved in the battery field aligns with its interest in offering greater battery safety and longevity. Achieving this is expected to deliver cost-effective electrification solutions that will benefit WAE and its client base.

Applying the multiphase multiphysics modelling toolsets is expected to enable the design of safer battery packs with fewer iterations and physical tests, saving time, costs and materials.

As part of this program, WAE will provide thermal runaway/propagation test data which has been developed as a result of its research and development programs whilst the battery team will provide technical knowledge and industrial experience on battery safety designs helping steer the project to success.

Dr Huizhi Wang of Imperial College London who is leading the project said: “Understanding and modelling thermal runaway plays a crucial role in guiding the development of safer batteries but remains challenging due to the complexity of the process. We are excited to be working with Williams Advanced Engineering on this research project to address the key knowledge gaps in battery safety modelling.”

WAE was acquired by Fortescue Metals Group in March 2022, and has said it will continue to service its existing customers and commercialize new technology opportunities, in addition to playing a key role in supporting Fortescue’s decarbonization strategy.


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