Tech Insights

Research Roundup: EV Tech, Energy Storage, and AI-Driven Building Energy Management

April 22, 2024 by Jake Hertz

Researchers are prioritizing energy efficiency and reliability in the shift toward electrified transportation and infrastructure, concentrating their efforts on optimizing EV battery technology, energy storage systems, and battery management methods. 

Energy efficiency and reliability are essential for electrifying transportation and infrastructure. Researchers worldwide are working hard to maximize efficiency and overcome challenges in electric vehicle battery technology, energy storage, and battery management systems. 

Recent laboratory breakthroughs have explored possibilities in materials and techniques, including using artificial intelligence (AI).


Battery research.

Battery research. Image used courtesy of Korea Institute of Energy Research


Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) for electric vehicle energy promises benefits like zero emissions, high efficiency, and minimal operational noise. However, their widespread adoption faces significant hurdles primarily due to durability issues and the degradation of cell components under the harsh and variable conditions typical in automotive environments.


Degradation mechanisms of PEMFCs.

Degradation mechanisms of PEMFCs. Image used courtesy of Liu et al.


A recent study explores the mechanisms behind the degradation of PEMFCs within automotive applications. It emphasizes the importance of understanding these mechanisms and introduces accelerated stress testing (AST) methods to simulate the challenging conditions these fuel cells encounter in real-world automotive use. These AST methods enable a comprehensive analysis of the degradation processes affecting PEMFCs. These include chemical breakdown of cell membranes, corrosion of carbon supports vital for cell structure, and mechanical wear from fluctuating operational demands. Moreover, the study addresses how impurities, often overlooked, can infiltrate the system and accelerate degradation, further complicating the development of durable PEMFCs.

The research team proposed innovative approaches to combat these challenges, focusing on developing more resilient materials and designs by applying AST methods. By addressing the core issues of PEMFC degradation, the research hopes to contribute significantly to advancing sustainable transportation technologies.


Energy Storage in Lead-Free Relaxor Ferroelectrics

Lead-free relaxor ferroelectrics are ideal dielectric materials for advanced energy storage applications, which demand exceptional performance. In recent research at Tsinghua University in Beijing, researchers introduced a novel class of high-entropy perovskite relaxor ferroelectrics, which could have large implications for enhancing energy storage efficiency.

The research demonstrates that increasing the Zr4+ content improves these materials' relaxor features and exhibits delayed polarization saturation, which benefits energy storage performance. Remarkably, the materials achieved a high recoverable energy storage density of 6.6 J/cm3 and an energy efficiency of 93.5% under an electric field of 550 kV/cm. These results are significant as they surpass the performance of existing dielectric materials and meet the stringent requirements of advanced energy storage applications.


Researchers investigated delayed polarization saturation in energy storage technologies

Researchers investigated delayed polarization saturation in energy storage technologies. Image used courtesy of the authors


This advancement is attributed to the high-entropy design strategy, which effectively increases ion disorder and reduces short-range order in the dielectric matrix. This strategy leads to the formation of isolated and weakly coupled polar nanoclusters within the dielectric, key to achieving high relaxor features and enhancing energy storage performance. 


AI-Based Building Energy Management

Recently, researchers from the Korea Institute of Energy Research presented a building energy management platform to leverage artificial intelligence and statistical methods to optimize operations. 

Traditionally, building energy management systems (BEMS) rely on simplistic energy usage monitoring and the operational experience of building managers. This has proved inadequate for managing modern buildings' complex and diverse distributed resources. The newly developed platform addresses these challenges by utilizing AI and statistical methods to automate the real-time management of distributed resources such as solar power generation, energy storage systems, and HVAC systems.


Distributed Resource Management Platform.

Distributed Resource Management Platform. Image used courtesy of the Korea Institute of Energy Research


The platform's AI algorithms automatically analyze operating conditions, diagnose faults, and optimize resource operation in real time. This results in enhanced efficiency and reduced energy costs. The technology demonstrates a fault detection accuracy of over 98% by incorporating a comprehensive fault and environmental data dataset for analysis. Additionally, the platform employs next-generation secure communication technologies, including quantum cryptography, to ensure robust protection against cyberattacks.

Implementing autonomous operation technology allows for immediate response and recovery from various faults in distributed resources, employing a nonlinear optimization algorithm for real-time operation optimization. This capability ensures the optimal utilization of distributed resources under fault conditions, leading to significant energy cost savings.

The success of this platform is evidenced by over a year of testing in a mock-up testbed simulating a real building environment, where it achieved more than 17% energy cost savings compared to existing BEMS. 


Better Energy Storage and Control

Storing and controlling energy usage will be a crucial element of the future of electrical infrastructure. With advances in energy storage surrounding PEMFCs, lead-free relaxor ferroelectrics, and AI-based battery management, researchers are clearly hard at work carving a path for the industry's future.