Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers seek longer battery life for electric locomotive

Date:
January 4, 2013
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
Norfolk Southern Railway No. 999 is the first all-electric, battery-powered locomotive in the United States. But when one of the thousand lead-acid batteries that power it dies, the locomotive shuts down. To combat this problem, researchers are developing more cost-effective ways to prolong battery life.

Norfolk Southern operates 21,000 route-miles in 22 states.
Credit: Michael Bezilla

Norfolk Southern Railway No. 999 is the first all-electric, battery-powered locomotive in the United States. But when one of the thousand lead-acid batteries that power it dies, the locomotive shuts down. To combat this problem, a team of Penn State researchers is developing more cost-effective ways to prolong battery life.

The experimental locomotive's batteries, just like automotive batteries, are rechargeable until they eventually die. A leading cause of damage and death in lead-acid batteries is sulfation, a degradation of the battery caused by frequent charging and discharging that creates an accumulation of lead sulfate.

In a recent study, the researchers looked for ways to improve regular battery management practices. The methods had to be nondestructive, simple and cheap -- using as few sensors, electronics and supporting hardware as possible while still remaining effective at identifying and decreasing sulfation.

"We wanted to reverse the sulfation to rejuvenate the battery and bring it back to life," said Christopher Rahn, professor of mechanical engineering.

Rahn, along with mechanical engineering research assistants Ying Shi and Christopher Ferone, cycled a lead-acid battery for three months in the same way it would be used in a locomotive. They used a process called electroimpedance spectroscopy and full charge/discharge to identify the main aging mechanisms. Through this, the researchers identified sulfation in one of the six battery cells. They then designed a charging algorithm that could charge the battery and reduce sulfation, but was also able to stop charging before other forms of degradation occurred. The algorithm successfully revived the dead cell and increased the overall capacity. The researchers, who report their results in the current issue of the Journal of Power Sources, then compared the battery to a new battery.

"We desulfated it, and we increased its capacity," said Rahn. "We didn't increase it all the way to brand new. We weren't able to do that, but we did get a big boost."

The researchers increased the cell capacity by 41 percent and the overall battery capacity by 30 percent. Even better results might have occurred if sulfation were the only aging mechanism at play, but the researchers found other factors reduced capacity, as well.

"Some of the other cells we identified may have had a water loss issue," said Rahn. "And for these types of batteries, there's nothing you can do about it."

Other mechanisms that can damage lead-acid batteries include positive electrode corrosion, irreversible hard sulfation, positive electrode softening or shedding, electrolyte stratification, internal short-circuiting and mechanical damage.

The researchers are now developing alternative models to replace the electroimpedance spectroscopy model that would allow charging right up to, but not past, sulfation in batteries where sulfation is not yet present, hoping to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

"You would charge as fast as you can and right when you see gassing starting to happen, you ramp down and reduce the current charging," said Rahn. "It's still related to degradation, but it's not really a rejuvenation project anymore."

Penn State and Norfolk Southern, which operates 21,000 route-miles in 22 states, began developing locomotive No. 999 in 2008 to evaluate the application of battery technologies for railroad motive power, with particular interest in energy savings and emissions reduction.

The U.S. Department of Energy funded this most recent study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ying Shi, Christopher A. Ferone, Christopher D. Rahn. Identification and remediation of sulfation in lead-acid batteries using cell voltage and pressure sensing. Journal of Power Sources, 2013; 221: 177 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2012.08.013

Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Researchers seek longer battery life for electric locomotive." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104143654.htm>.
Penn State. (2013, January 4). Researchers seek longer battery life for electric locomotive. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104143654.htm
Penn State. "Researchers seek longer battery life for electric locomotive." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130104143654.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 30, 2014) Fresh breath and clean teeth are great, but have you ever thought, "my toothpaste could be doing more". Well, it can! Lots of things! Howdini has 7 new uses for this household staple. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins