Thermal runaway in Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) in submarines
has been a serious problem as US testing in November 2008 (see below) revealed. The above artwork concerns destructive phases through heat buildup in LIBs in hearing aids. (Courtesy Hearing Health & Technology Matters)
Many countries (from Europe to Northeast Asia and the US) are carrying out Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) research for submarines.
Australia is also active in research on LIBs for submarines. Australia’s Department of Defence’s multi-faceted research organisation, the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group is active in LIB safety research.
In one of the activities DST's Defence researcher, Kane Ivory, is establishing DST’s LIB Safety Research Facility - on DST's website see an article Powering the Future of Submarine Fleets of
The US Navy and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had bad experiences with LIBs way back in November 2008 under the now cancelled Advanced SEAL Delivery Vehicle (ASDS) program. The prototype (ASDS-1) "was having its lithium-ion batteries charged Nov. 9 when an explosion started a battery fire that burned for about six hours. No one was aboard the 60-ton craft, which was on shore at its base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii...The incident came at a key time for the [ASDS] mini-sub program. The ASDS was to have deployed in November [on top of] the guided-missile submarine [USS Michigan (SSGN-727)] — the first SSGN deployment for the [ASDS mini-sub]."
As well as LIBs for mini-subs and UUVs the US Navy may want to eventually use LIBs as backup batteries in nuclear submarines.
US-Australian cooperation in defence research is revealed by a US Navy document regarding Ken Ivory’s secondment, in 2016 to the US, under the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP). The US document indicates:
"Kane is here working with us on understanding how that safety program works and the types of tests and approaches to testing we have to see what is applicable to Australia," Fuentevilla said. "One common area of interest for Australia and the United States is early fault detection for lithium battery failures. Normal battery management systems will detect a fault or failure as it's happening, but not necessarily with sufficient time to prevent system-level hazards. We're looking at technologies that would provide additional early warning so that you can effectively implement hazard mitigation solutions to prevent a small problem from becoming a bigger problem."