Lab Drops 500 Pounds onto Lithium-Ion Batteries

An indoor tower at Sandia National Laboratories lets engineers impact-test batteries with hundreds of pounds dropped from more than 8 feet.

Batteries go through some intense testing. Researchers drive nails through them, crush them, overheat them, overcharge them and blast them with a laser, among other tests. 

Now, the engineers at Sandia National Laboratories have a new toy: an indoor tower that drops up to 500 pounds on lithium-ion batteries. The tower is actually the ninth in-house test, or as testing engineer Chris Grosso says, their "ninth way of killing a battery."

According to Grosso, the test hits the batteries with so much force that it often cuts them in half. 

Lithium-ion batteries are found in medical equipment and electric cars, among other things. Impact testing will not only help create safer batteries, but it will also help provide useful information for first responders in car accidents involving EVs. 

The new drop tower is controlled remotely. The researchers don’t begin the test until they’re inside a trailer about 30 yards away.

The battery is bolted to a load cell to measure the impact force, and the weight drops from up to 8 feet, 8 inches. 

The researchers capture data on speed, force, temperature and voltage while cameras record the carnage. Most of the components are off-the-shelf so they can be easily replaced following a fire or explosion. 

Next, the engineers plan to add springs or gas-pressurized pistons to boost downward acceleration and increase the impact force. When you do, please send us the footage.

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