Enhancing Battery Safety

Dept. of Energy
Early Detection of Internal Shorts, Preventing Catastrophic Battery Failure

Technology Marketing Summary

Li-ion batteries are becoming increasingly important to modern life, powering everything from cell phones to cars and improving the reliability of the electric power grid. However, current Li-ion battery systems, due to their flammable components, have been known to generate enough heat to ignite when they fail creating serious safety hazards. Attempts to use more flame resistant chemistries have yielded much lower energy density, and therefore have not met the demand for safe, powerful battery solutions.

One of the primary mechanisms that leads to a catastrophic battery failure is the development of internal shorts caused by metal dendrites that can form as batteries age or are subjected to abuse. These internal shorts begin as “soft” shorts, which often dissolve and reform as the battery is cycled. Over continued cycling, the metal dendrites may harden and become thicker to the point that they no longer fully dissolve. This may result in significant current to flow between electrodes in the battery, leading to thermal runaway and catastrophic failure.


Researchers at INL have developed methods and systems for detecting internal soft short circuits in batteries by monitoring the self-discharge rate of the battery. When internal shorts are present, the self-discharge rate is much higher than for normal operation. Previous systems that monitor this attribute have taken days to complete testing; the INL system requires only minutes, with the exact time dependent on specific battery chemistry and form. The information this system provides can be used to inform users of changes in battery pack health and to identify compromised cells that need to be isolated.  The technology can also be used by cell / pack manufacturers to monitor self-discharge performance as a quality metric.


  • Early detection of soft shorts to prevent catastrophic failure
  • Active measurement methodology – doesn’t require waiting for measurement opportunity
  • Establishes fast equilibration of the cell(s), module(s), or pack(s) to determine instant self-discharge rate
  • Can be used with multiple battery chemistries and designs
  • Convenient for process automation and quality control in cell manufacturing - can be used to reduce inventory time required to identify faulty cells
  • Efficient on cell, battery module, and pack level – isolation not required to detect soft shorts
  • Highly quantitative – method improves data quality for battery management systems

Applications and Industries

  • On board monitoring of rechargeable batteries used in:
    • Cell phones, laptops, and other personal devices
    • Transportation (automotive, aircraft, marine)
    • Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
    • Grid-scale energy storage systems
    • and others
  • Battery management system companies
  • Battery manufacturers
  • Military and civilian sectors

More Information

This technology has been tested and validated at the bench scale. Additional development will be required to apply this methodology and system in commercial applications.  BEA may be in a position to support additional research and development of this technology under a mutually acceptable Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA), Strategic Partnership Projects (SPP) agreement, or a similar agreement, all of which are subject to approval by DOE. 

Technology Publication

Paper: “Enhancing Li-Ion Battery Safety by Early Detection of Nascent Internal Shorts,” Journal of the Electrochemical Society, volume 164, issue 1, 2017, pp A6281-A6287.

Conference Abstract:  “Novel Short-Circuit Detection in Li-Ion BatteryArchitectures,” 232nd Electrochemical Society Meeting.


For more information, please contact Ryan Bills at ryan.bills@inl.gov