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High powered possibilities: local high school student has unique opportunity for hands on battery research

Mathur uses CAR’s glovebox—a chamber filled with the non-reactive gas argon—to take apart existing large batteries. These batteries’ materials are then used to build a group of new small batteries with similar profiles that can be aged.Aarti Mathur, an Upper Arlington High School student and intern at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR), has received multiple honors for her research in battery aging. During spring 2014, Mathur participated in the District Science Day competition for The Ohio Academy of Science and was recognized for the success of the project. In total, Mathur earned three awards: Young Scientist Award, Franklin County Professional Engineers Award and Certificate of Achievement for Advanced Materials Science Research.

For her project Mathur worked alongside graduate student Alex Bartlett and post-doctoral researcher Shrikant Nagpure to research how a battery’s energy and power (amount of current the battery can provide) degrades differently in the positive and negative terminals. To do this, the team ages batteries under various conditions. The goal is to learn the extent to which terminals contribute to battery failure, as well as to discover the differences that can occur in batteries aged in varying conditions.

Involvement with the project came through Mathur’s Science in Research project class at Upper Arlington High School.

This unique opportunity for a high school student has allowed Mathur to participate in the full design and execution of a research project, something not common until later in students’ academic careers. “Aarti has the great opportunity to get hands on learning in areas that many college students don’t get until their final year,” Bartlett said. “She’s an enthusiastic and hard worker, and obviously impressed the science fair judges.”

An up-close look at materials Mathur setup to build small ‘coin cell’ batteries that will be aged and the results analyzed.


Big picture significance

The big picture goal is two-fold. First is to develop more accurate, robust models of battery energy and power lost over time. This will allow a hybrid or electric vehicle’s battery management system to adaptively maximize the battery's usage, while also accurately informing the driver of the remaining available range until a recharge is needed.

The second goal is to develop new battery materials that will have higher energy and power density. This will enable hybrid and electric vehicles to achieve long range between recharging. Before new materials end up on the market, they must be developed and tested from a battery aged under real-life conditions, precisely what Mathur is helping to accomplish.

“The introduction to real research scenarios and operation of a research laboratory lays the groundwork for future investigation,” mentor Shrikant Nagpure said. “Aarti has a keen interest in research, is curious to understand battery behavior and has shown discipline in performing this experimental work.”


Next steps

With this initial project under her belt, Mathur looks forward to building a more complicated battery aging model. For now, however, she remains appreciative of the experience the opportunity has provided. "I never expected to be modeling batteries in high school" she said. "Not only has the experience fueled my passion for engineering, but the sheer amount of knowledge that I gained from working in a professional laboratory has prepared me for the future in a way that no classroom could.”