Developing an Energy Storage Device Characterization Instrument Using NI LabVIEW Software and NI PXI Hardware

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"Using advanced NI modular instrumentation technology, the SolRayo ETS can match or exceed the speed and accuracy of existing commercial devices. At the same time, a modern, user-friendly interface greatly improves the usability of the device."

- Dr. Mark Daugherty, SolRayo, Inc.

The Challenge:
Developing a potentiostat/galvanostat/impedance analyzer system (potentiostat) with user-friendly software, high accuracy and resolution, multiple frequency modes, a low-current option, and e-mail/text notification features.

The Solution:
Determining the energy storage, power rating, and internal resistance of devices such as batteries, capacitors, and fuel cells using a potentiostat based on LabVIEW software and PXI instrumentation.

Author(s):
Dr. Mark Daugherty - SolRayo, Inc.

Energy storage technologies play a vital role in the growth and proliferation of “green” energy generation sources such as wind, solar, and biomass. Public and private funding for energy storage is skyrocketing, propelling an unprecedented amount of research into new battery, capacitor, fuel cell, and other energy storage technologies. We designed the SolRayo Electrochemical Test System (SolRayo ETS) to meet the needs of a new generation of innovative electrochemical research teams racing to develop the critical advances in energy storage technology demanded by the renewable energy market.

A potentiostat is an instrument that applies or draws a current or voltage to a test cell and measures its response. Existing potentiostat products lack the level of test automation and ease of use required for high-productivity electrochemical research in fast-paced, high-innovation industries such as renewable energy. Typically, the learning curve for these instruments is long, the software is complex and difficult to use, and key features such as e-mail and text notifications are either nonexistent or inadequate. To fill our customers’ demands for an easy-to-use potentiostat test system with parallel test execution and sequencing, SolRayo electrochemists used National Instruments hardware and LabVIEW to create a user-friendly, software-powered instrument.

Research teams developing electrochemical devices such as novel battery or ultracapacitor products need software that is easy to use, but can still capture the full power of today’s state-of-the-art instrumentation hardware. With multiple technicians making measurements and several engineers and electrochemists using the potentiostat intermittently, design teams cannot afford to send everyone to a lengthy class to learn how to operate a potentiostat. The new SolRayo ETS reduces training time to about an hour by implementing common operations with simple graphical setup screens. At the same time, it has advanced configuration options that can be accessed as needed to suit the needs of sophisticated, full-time electrochemists.

The most common application for potentiostat instruments is the performance characterization of energy storage devices such as batteries, capacitors, and fuel cells. To determine properties of energy storage devices, the SolRayo ETS can perform many types of experiments such as chronopotentiometry, chronoamperometry, cyclic voltammetry, and impedance spectroscopy. The most popular types of performance characterization measurements include the following:

  • Energy density
  • Capacitance
  • Power density
  • Cycle life
  • Internal resistance
  • Frequency response
  • Charge/discharge profiles

Because of its modularity, the SolRayo ETS can also give users the specific functionality they require in fields such as electrochemistry, corrosion and multipitting, electrochromics, biosensors, and solar photovoltaics.

Features and Benefits

Based on feedback from electrochemical research engineers, we designed the SolRayo ETS includes the following features and benefits:

  • Out-of-the-box usability – suitable for novice to highly advanced users
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use software interface – saves as much as $10,000 USD annually in setup and run-time costs
  • Short training and startup time – reduces training from weeks to one-half hour or less and reduces startup time as much as 40-fold
  • Simultaneous and independent experimentation – significantly improves test throughput
  • Low- and high-current experimentation – makes a single system adaptable to a wider range of applications
  • Great flexibility – lets the advanced user design experiments, empowering more research innovation

Potentiostat Operating Modes

The SolRayo ETS operates in three modes. Fixed DC mode applies or draws either a current or voltage while measuring the response of the device being tested. Advanced DC mode can ramp or sweep voltage or current at particular rates. AC mode measures internal resistance and other frequency responses. For this purpose, potentiostats generate a high-frequency voltage sine wave and measure the phase shift between the applied sine wave and the resulting high-frequency current wave. The functionality of each mode is achieved using state-of-the-art National Instruments PXI instrumentation technology.

A Software Architecture for High-Performance Parallel Testing

Using the powerful parallel execution capabilities of the LabVIEW graphical programming language, we developed a multifunctional program that runs multiple types of experiments simultaneously and independently. The SolRayo ETS software was created with the aim of being simple, yet powerful. Its intuitive design gets a beginning electrochemist up and running quickly and smoothly, while sophisticated users specify advanced settings as required for their particular application. 

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The results of the SolRayo ETS potentiostat have far exceeded our customer’s expectations. Using advanced NI modular instrumentation technology, the SolRayo ETS can match or exceed the speed and accuracy of existing commercial devices. At the same time, a modern, user-friendly interface greatly improves the usability of the device.

Author Information:
Dr. Mark Daugherty
SolRayo, Inc.
4005 Felland Rd., Suite 107
Madison, WI 53718
Tel: 608.244.2799
mark.daugherty@solrayo.com

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