West Lafayette, Indiana - The recent recall of hoverboards because of exploding lithium-ion batteries highlights the danger of overheating batteries. Amy Marconnet, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, can speak about the effects of excessive heating in batteries.

Marconnet (pronounced mar-co-nay) founded the Marconnet Thermal and Energy Conversion Lab, where researchers are dissecting the batteries and testing materials making up electrodes and a critical component called a separator.

Battery failures have been reported in products ranging from commercial airliners and laptops to hoverboards and cellphones. Chemical reactions in the batteries generate heat while discharging and charging. The separator is a layer of material between the positive and negative electrodes. When it fails due to high heat, the battery short-circuits and could explode.

Marconnet and her team use thermal conductivity measurement tools to study the batteries and determine the thermal conductivity of the separator.

“This value is critical for predicting how hot the separator will get and whether it will fail,” she said.  “So new data from our lab will help us predict safety and reliability of batteries used for many purposes.”