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OSU study models battery use in air travel

Special to the Legal News

Published: September 10, 2019

Ohio State University researchers developed models in a recent study that examined the use of batteries in air travel.

And Center for Automotive Research scientists believe the results may be a step forward toward cleaner, more efficient air travel.

"We are working on ways to make air travel less carbon-intensive," said Marcello Canova, a co-presenter and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State. "Lithium-ion batteries, including the technology that is commercially available today, appear to be a promising option."

The models showed that adding lithiumion batteries to a regional airplane could reduce that airplane's fuel needs by up to 20 percent, the researchers said.

The team presented the findings recently at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Electric Aircraft Technologies Symposium in Indianapolis.

The research was conducted under NASA's University Leadership Initiative program, and focuses on evaluating the trade-offs between fuel savings and a battery pack's size, weight and costs, while also including the carbon impact of the electricity necessary to recharge the battery pack, a press release announcing the study's results detailed. The models and tools developed were a joint effort between researchers at Ohio State and Georgia Institute of Technology, and could help airplane and airplane battery designers better understand how an aircraft's design affects its ability to be powered by a battery.

Researchers focused on lithium-ion battery packs that could supplement the power produced by the engines of a regional jet––one traveling 600 or fewer miles, carrying 50 to 100 passengers––in preliminary tests.

The model showed that a battery has the ability to power about 30 percent of the total power required for an airplane to climb to cruising altitude, and about 20 percent of the power required to cruise, reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

"Our team is focusing on evaluating the feasibility and economics of introducing lithium-ion batteries to air travel," Canova said. "And we're working on the ways to make that safe and reliable."

Additionally, the work considered how to make batteries for air travel more efficient.

To lay the groundwork for a better battery, Canova said, the team built a computer model of an electro-thermal battery pack and added an algorithm that simulated the effects of time and use on batteries. Then they tested to see how that model performed after repeated use and under various temperatures.

The team planned for the battery to be used for six flights per day, and calculated the power necessary for takeoff, climbing, cruising, landing and taxiing to the runway. They allotted one hour between flights to charge the battery pack, and assumed that the pack could be used for two years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A battery pack's performance is limited by capacity fade, they determined.

Canova said what they developed is essentially a tool that can be used to predict the effect stressors such as aging and use might have on a lithium-ion battery powering a regional aircraft, which is a very important factor when evaluating costs and benefits of introducing this technology in air travel.

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