By Suchismita Sanyal, General Manager for Computational Science on Jan 21, 2021
I am truly enthusiastic to see how computational science can support all of Shell businesses in pushing the boundaries of the next generation of clean energy technologies. Last year, I shared few examples of High Performance Computing (HPC) advancing technologies that are central to a future hydrogen economy and I explained how our expertise in HPC and code-optimization makes our conventional applications faster and more efficient.
This time, I would like to highlight the work the Computational Science team accomplished for Shell Lubricants. Their products are backed by unique technological expertise and decades of research and development across a global network of labs located in Bangalore, Hamburg, Houston, Shanghai and Atsugi. Let me share how the Computational Science team contributed to this track record in 2020 and paved the way for future technological improvements.
The team carried a computational study for our colleagues in the research laboratory in Hamburg that demonstrated the improved performance of Shell E‑Fluids, a coolant liquid for batteries used for electric vehicles (EVs).
The model our team created proved that the temperature difference between the fluid and the battery is significantly lower when using Shell E-Fluids in Kreisel Electric batteries compared to conventional liquid cooled batteries. The demonstration of this game-changing performance led to a new patent for Shell and a deeper cooperation with the Austrian EV battery pack manufacturer. Last November, Shell and Kreisel electric formed a strategic alliance to offer a high-performance electric battery solution together.
One of the key challenges when charging and discharging EV batteries is the thermal control. Batteries that are too hot will not charge as efficiently and can become a danger without adequate cooling. Active battery immersion cooling is one available solution to dissipate the heat generated from the charging and discharging process.
Active cooling means reducing the heat of the battery pack while it is being used, for example during driving or charging. Shell E-Fluids are dielectric fluids. They have the particular property of conducting heat without conducting electricity. Their superior thermal properties make them ideal for immersive cooling of battery packs. Proving these superior thermal properties required a collaborative, physics- and data-driven approach.
The Computational Science team designed and validated a physics-based model to simulate the battery pack under extreme charging and discharging conditions. To accurately describe these, the model had to be multi-scale and multi-physics. It captured the interplay between the nano-scale interactions of the charging cycles (involving electrons flowing in the battery cells) and the fluid dynamics at the battery scale (involving heat circulating in the cooling fluids). This involved modelling both quantum mechanics (at nano-scale) and classical physics (at battery scale) at different time scales (femto-seconds and milli-seconds respectively), which is non-trivial.
Our decades of experience in multi-scale, multiphysics modelling led to the efficient development of these models. The modelling results confirmed the efficacy of Shell E-Fluids before performing any laboratory experiments. Working with Kreisel experts, we could access important technical details related to battery material properties and geometry. These close collaborations with subject matter experts within and beyond Shell have helped our Computational Science team make our computational models robust by capturing the right physics, thus making our model transferrable and replicable across diverse products in the EV space.
To further demonstrate that Shell E-fluids are indeed better than current market solutions, the lubricant research team in Hamburg created a laboratory environment where they could run experiments to put the model into practice. The cooperation with Kreisel allowed our researchers to perform a full-fledged battery pack simulation – to look at how temperature hotspots develop and to compare coolants performances by changing the fluid in the battery test rig (which you can see in the image below). The focused experimentation tested and validated the results of the modelling of the battery charging cycles.
The Computational Science team will be further involved in the collaboration with Kreisel Electric. This model can now be used to develop new formulations for Shell E-Fluids in pushing the performance further. It can also be used to provide modelling service to test fluid dynamics in alternative battery pack arrangements.
Suchismita Sanyal is the General Manager, Computational Science at Shell Technology Centre Bangalore. She leads a group of 60 researchers in the Computational Science group in Shell, delivering digital solutions across multiple Shell businesses and designed to position Shell on a stronger foothold in the energy transition.