GE researchers in Niskayuna developing military-funded battery program

FILE - The entrance to GE Global Research's property off of River Road in Niskayuna in 2019.
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FILE - The entrance to GE Global Research's property off of River Road in Niskayuna in 2019.

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NISKAYUNA — A new military-funded program developed by GE Research in Niskayuna could allow lithium-ion batteries to avoid decay and to potentially retain their power indefinitely.

The project, funded with $6 million from the Defense Advanced Research Agency’s (DARPA) Morphogenic Interfaces (MINT) program, will allow the company to develop and demonstrate an IMMORTAL Battery prototype.

GE Research has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, the University of California Santa Barbara, and Storagenergy on the program, which will utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning models to improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries.

Joseph Shiang, a principal scientist working in the ceramics lab at GE Research in the technical area of materials physics and processes, is leading the IMMORTAL Battery project.

“Today, we think of most things as having a finite life cycle, determined by the rate at which parts wear out,” Shiang explained of the project. “Biological systems extend their lifetime by using complex chemical processes and feedback to keep components from failing, but what if we could arrange the chemical processes in simpler, non-living systems, like batteries, to preclude degradation and extend life? That’s the essence of what we’re creating with the IMMORTAL battery.”

A second $5 million project funded by DARPA, titled Morphogenic Barrier Technologies, is designed to develop a new regenerative corrosion protection layer for aluminum metal parts that could allow the protection layer to regenerate its own surface.

GE Research has partnered with the University of Virginia and Brigham Young University.

This project is being shepherded from Niskayuna by lead engineer Sreekar Karnati.

“When someone gets a cut, you might apply an antibiotic ointment to avoid infection and accelerate the healing of that wound,” Karnati explained of the project. “What we’re innovating is more proactive. We’re creating a protective surface layer on aluminum alloys that can self-heal, or regenerate, instead of letting the metal pit and degrade.”

The pair of projects, which are in the early phases of design and exploration, are part of a DARPA initiative to determine whether new materials can be engineered to mirror characteristics of human tissue, including self-healing, to improve their durability.

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