Hamilton Economic Development

McMaster gets $3.5m jolt for electric car battery research

McMaster researchers are powered up for the next four years with $3.5 million in grants and in-kind donations to investigate the reliability and cost of lithium batteries in electric cars.

Burlington Conservative MP Mike Wallace made the announcement Tuesday at the A.M. Bourns Science building on the university campus.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) provided $2.3 million, with the remainder coming in cash and in-kind donations from General Motors, Heka Electronics and Bruker Ltd.

Dr. Gillian Goward, an associate professor of chemistry at McMaster, said the funding will help her team explore a new avenue of research.

“It’s a new angle for us,” she said. “It’s about why batteries degrade and what processes lead to cell death.”

Goward said researchers have struggled to find ways to increase the overall efficiency of lithium batteries.

Now the team at McMaster will use magnetic resonance technology to examine how the lithium batteries operate while in use.

“Until now most research has focused on examining the batteries after they’ve degraded, this will allow us to differentiate the local environment … on a pristine battery,” she said.

Nick Markettos, assistant vice-president of research partnerships at McMaster, said the new project is an exciting complement to the rapidly growing body of research in the auto sector.

“Material (science) is traditionally an area of research at McMaster — steel, plastics and polymers — but we’ve also been moving very rapidly in auto powertrain technology,” he said.

That expansion of research is manifested in the current construction of the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC), expected to be complete by the January 2013 at a total cost of $26 million.

The centre will be housed in 88,000 square feet of space at the Careport centre at McMaster Innovation Park on Longwood Road.

Markettos said Goward’s research could not be housed at the Innovation Park site due to the sensitivity of the instruments she uses.

Like Tuesday’s announcement, auto sector research will bring together academic and industry scientists to develop new technologies.

Justin Gammage, chief scientist at GM Canada, said ultimately the auto company hopes Goward’s team will help them quickly evaluate the potential for new lithium batteries with a goal of creating a more efficient, long-lasting and less expensive model.

“We are looking for tools that more rapidly determine whether a battery is viable or not,” he said.

Markettos said research into such a critical problem in the development of electric cars is not just important to McMaster’s scientists but to the province.

“We are working very hard to make sure the car companies in Ontario have the research and development they need to remain competitive. We’re not just focused on the jobs on Longwood Road, but the thousands of jobs in Ontario tied to the auto sector.”

Click here to read the full story from the Hamilton Spectator.




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