Battery Manufacturing Meets High-Performance Computing

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Lithium-ion batteries help power products ranging from cell phones to electric cars. The electrolyte, the part of the battery through which electrical current flows, contains a solution of lithium that’s prone to problems, however. When conductive filaments called dendrites form, the battery discharges more quickly and eventually stops working. Developing a better electrolyte continues to challenge the lithium battery industry, but one battery company is using high-performance computing (HPC) to gain a competitive edge.
In DENDRITES! You’re surrounded!, blogger Bill Thirsk examines how HPC can help manufacturers to overcome challenges like this. Thirsk, the Vice President of Information Technology and CIO at Marist College, is a member of the Board of Directors for HPCNY, an HPC consortium that seeks to increase New York State’s competitive advantage in R&D. Thirsk is also the Board Chair for NYSERNET, a non-profit organization that partners with HPCNY and seeks to promote science and education in New York State.

Dendrites and Discovery

Most cell phone owners don’t know what dendrites are, but these long thin filaments eventually make their presence known. In Thrisk’s case, the old lithium-ion battery in his cell phone began dying quickly and required frequent charging. That’s because as dendrites spread inside a battery’s electrolyte, they cause electrons to depart from their controlled paths. This haphazard travel causes a sudden and rapid discharge that allows excess current to flow, draining the battery and even increasing the risk of fire.
A cell phone battery that won’t hold a charge is frustrating, but Thirsk’s experience prompted him to think more deeply about the state of battery technology. “What if a simple lack of yet-to-be-discovered facts about batteries is preventing manufacturers from creating a battery that is stronger and lasts longer?,” Thirsk asked. Battery manufacturing could be revolutionized by “new knowledge of the chemistry of creating electricity” and “new combinations of the materials used in batteries and battery production.”

HPC and Manufacturing  

For many manufacturers, however, the pursuit of innovation can be cost-prohibitive. Major investments in technology, materials, and personnel can be risky, too. If research dollars don’t yield a return, a company may struggle to absorb the costs. That’s why partnering with HPCNY makes smart business sense, especially for small to medium-sized manufacturers. In addition to the computing power that HPC provides, manufacturers can leverage the engineering expertise that HPCNY offers.
If Greg Satell of Forbes magazine is correct, energy storage is the most important technology in the world. By choosing to work with HPCNY for research, modeling, and simulation, one battery manufacturer is substituting high-performance computing for other potential and more expensive approaches. As Bill Thirsk explains, “battery companies can move forward with their next iteration without having to make substantial capital investments or hire long-term experts.” Other types of manufacturers can benefit, too.

HPCNY and Your Innovation Journey

How can high-performance computing help support manufacturing innovation at your company? For more information about how HPCNY works with industry, visit the HPCNY website and check out some of the collaborations. You can also learn more about HPCNY’s expertise with process and engineering improvement, product/model design and development, and research and discovery.


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