Center for Ageing, Reliability and Lifetime Prediction of Electrochemical and Power Electronic Systems


A center for basic research on the ageing of battery materials and power electronic systems is being developed till 2020 at RWTH. The German Council of Science and Humanities has granted 60 million Euros of funding from the NRW state and federal governments for the Center for Ageing, Reliability and Lifetime Prediction of Electrochemical and Power Electronic Systems, CARL for short.

The center is to be an interdisciplinary research institution, at which employees from ten core professorships and around 20 other chairs and institutes of RWTH and Forschungszentrum Jülich will conduct innovative research. Scientists will be representing the fields of chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, materials science, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering.

"Battery ageing and lifetime predictions of power electronics are topics that have been investigated in Aachen at the Institute for Power Electronics and Electronic Drives, ISEA, since the 1980s," says ISEA Director Rik De Doncker. "However, CARL represents the first holistic approach in Germany." The complete process chain from manufacture to application is just as much at the focus as the lifecycle of all materials and components. "We want to understand at the atomic and crystallic level how energy stores work and react to various demands," says Professor Dirk Uwe Sauer from ISEA, explaining the fundamental idea of CARL. "For example, there are similiarities in questions regarding the connection of power semiconductors when they are implemented in electronic vehicles or wind power stations. Only once we understand physical-chemical processes, can we produce systems that work without excess capacity or redundancies." Sauer is speaker of the project and significantly contributed to its development, using his many years of experience, which reach back to his doctoral studies and diverse projects over the past 13 years at ISEA.

Two different perspectives will be considered at CARL: that of the end users and that of those who develop machines and materials to manufacture batteries and power electronics. "With our research results we can contribute to speeding up development cycles and saving money through the optimal configuration of the systems," says Sauer. The question of lifetime is essential to profitability analysis. For example, it is important for car manufacturers to be able to estimate depreciation periods, guarantees, and reliability as part of functional security.

Three Laboratory Suites Form the Core of the Project

The funding will be used to erect three large laboratory suites, which form the core of CARL. The first suite will contain testing benches for load and environment simulations. For example, electrical, mechanical, chemical, and climate influences on the material and systems of batteries and power electronics will be investigated. Here ageing processes are run and analyzed in a time lapse, in order to research their causes in detail.

The second laboratory suite is dedicated to the construction of prototypes. The performance capability of the system or even individual components will be investigated in order to exclude material or design errors early on.

The third suite will focus on physical-electrochemical anaylsis. With the help of an analysis chain for structure and material investigations, which include a highly modern computer tomograph with a not yet attained resolution, the structures of the materials can be investigated and analyzed down to atomic resolution.

The construction of CARL will begin in 2017 on Campus Melaten in the west of Aachen. The construction costs for the building amount to approximately 43 million Euros. About 16 million Euros are estimated for large equipment and basic equipment. Roughly 150 employees will move in mid-2020.