PowerPanels: Multifunctional Composites with Li-Ion Battery Cores

Investigators - Jun Ma, Dr. Christopher D. Rahn, Dr. Charles E. Bakis, Lei Cao, Jiho Seo, Dr. Michael A. Hickner, Dr. Yancheng Zhang, Dr. Abhendra K. Singh

Sponsor - ARPA-E

Multifunctional structural batteries are capable of storing energy while fulfilling a structural role in various applications including satellites, spacecraft, unmanned air vehicles, marine systems and electric vehicles. Lithium ion batteries are commonly used in such applications by virtue of their high energy density, long cycle life and environmental friendliness with zero emissions. The innovation embodied in this research is to combine the mechanically efficient attributes of sandwich panels with the electrochemically efficient attributes of state-of-the-art lithium ion batteries.

The mechanical efficiency of sandwich panels results from bonding a thin pair of stiff, strong face skins to a lightweight, thick core material. The core separates the skins and minimizes transverse shear deformation, resulting in a structure with high bending strength and high rigidity per unit mass. In our PowerPanel design, transversely stacked battery materials serve as the core and must be bonded to the top and bottom face skins to behave as a single solid composite structure. Thus, the face skins carry the in-plane and bending loads while the battery core carries the transverse shear and compression loads in addition to storing energy. Hermetic seals in the form of aluminum C-channels in the longitudinal direction and polyetherimide end-plugs in the transverse direction share in some of the structural load-carrying capacity while containing the liquid electrolyte. Consequently, the energy storage components have a structural contribution and the structural components are also utilized for the battery enclosure. On a system level, this design has the potential to reduce weight and volume and therefore augment the energy density, specific energy and structural performance of electric vehicles.


1. Zhang Y, Ma J, Singh AK, Cao L, Seo J, Rahn CD, Bakis CE, Hickner MA (2016) Multifunctional Structural Lithium Ion Battery for Electric Vehicles. Journal of Intelligent Materials Systems and Structures. (Accepted)

2. Ma J, Rahn CD, Frecker M (2016) Optimal Battery-Structure Composites for Electric Vehicles. In ASME 2016 Power and Energy Conference.

3. Singh AK, Cao L, Ma J, Seo J, Bakis CE, Zhang Y, Hickner MA and Rahn CD (2015) Design, manufacture and test of a novel structural battery based on sandwich construction. Journal of Sandwich Structures and Materials 17(6): 666-690.

4. Rahn CD, Bakis CE, Hickner M and Zhang Y (2014) Sandwich Panels with Battery Cores. U.S. Patent Application No. 61/931,877, PCT/US2014/067700.