Batteries that function in the iciest conditions

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On December 10, the Center for Research in Extreme Batteries (CREB) held it’s 2021 Biannual Fall Meeting, both virtually and on the UMD campus in College Park.

CREB catalyzes collaborative research in materials, technologies, and characterization techniques in the development of advanced batteries for extreme performance and environments required for defense, aerospace, and biomedical applications.

This program focused on Batteries in Extremely Low Temperature Environments and subject matter experts from various academic, government and industry entities such as Johns Hopkins and Purdue Universities, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and Eagle Picher Technologies were in attendance.

“The presenters covered a plethora of compelling topics – from opportunities for electric vehicles in Alaska to liquefied gas electrolytes, portable energy storage designed for the battlefield, and battery operations possibilities on Mars – and we were delighted to have over 160 people in attendance,” said James Short, CREB Program Administrator.

Eric Wachsman – Director of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute, Distinguished University Professor with appointments in Materials Science & Engineering and Chemical Engineering, and CREB Steering Committee Member – hosted the meeting.

“Technology development in this area is becoming increasingly important in a counterintuitive way as climate change is warming the Artic thus opening this extremely cold region of earth to both greater exploration, but also turning it into a potential region of conflict," said Wachsman. "In addition, our exploration beyond earth is landing rovers on extremely cold planets such as Mars. For all of these we need batteries that can operate in extremely cold temperatures.”

The early afternoon session focused on the U.S. Army's need for portable power. Guiseppe di Benedetto presented techniques investigated at the Picatinny Arsenal using insulation to protect batteries in Army systems used in polar regions. Government and industry presenters also spoke to the invention of anode, cathode and electrolyte materials specifically designed to operate in low temperatures environments. 

The late afternoon session turned attention to civilian battery challenges. Michelle Wilber of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, correlated the impact on battery physics of reducing temperature from 700F/200C to below 00F/-200C with the effect on the operation of electric vehicles.

Jennifer Herman and Marshall Smart, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars mission experts, spoke to the increasing energy demands placed on the Mars rovers (e.g., Spirit & Opportunity, Curiosity and Perseverance), which must function in temperatures ranging from 320F/00C to below -1100F/-800C.

Chunsheng Wang, CREB Director and professor of chemical engineering, discussed the low-temperature electrolyte design for graphite/NMC811 batteries, which is a collaborated project between UMD, ARL, BNL and the University of Rhode Island.

Please address any questions to CREB’s Program Administrator, James Short (

Published December 21, 2021