• Homepage
  • >
  • News
  • >
  • Chao Hu: Re-Charging Research on the Reliability of Lithium-ion Batteries

Chao Hu: Re-Charging Research on the Reliability of Lithium-ion Batteries

Written by: Olivia Ortegon and Matthew Mancini

When most of us plug in our devices, we don’t think about the batteries inside. This is where C2E2’s most recent hire, Dr. Chao Hu’s research is focused. “We look at the battery usage profile during operation (charging and discharging). We want to estimate the state of health of individual cells and predict their remaining lifetime; both in real-time.”

Dr. Chao Hu started his career at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned his Ph.D. in Reliability Engineering in 2011. He spent a few years working with the company Medtronic in Minneapolis, MN, where he worked on the reliability of lithium-ion batteries used in medical devices. He then made the decision to return to academia, working as both an assistant and associate professor at Iowa State University from 2015 to 2022. It was during his Ph.D. program that he began to work on what is now his specialty, reliability engineering. He started in software reliability, but eventually made the switch to physical system reliability. Dr. Hu’s research is focused on using probabilistic and statistical methods to enhance the reliability, resiliency, and sustainability of complex engineered systems. The two core application areas of his research are (1) design uncertainty of mechanical systems and (2) predictive health management of lithium-ion batteries with rotating machine components (e.g., pumps, motors, and standalone bearings). The primary outcomes of his research are new methods and tools that lead to better decisions. This includes early-stage system design and post-design health management which can improve reliability, resiliency, and sustainability.

His ventures have now brought him to the University of Connecticut. Dr. Hu has recently joined C2E2, bringing with him a plethora of knowledge and experience. He chose UConn for its well-established design group in the Mechanical Engineering department. He was also impressed by the engineering program as a whole and felt that UConn would be a good fit for his research interests and goals.

At C2E2, Dr. Hu and his research group will focus on battery reliability and lifetime prediction. He and his group of students will examine how each cell in a battery module or pack is used as the cell goes through charging and discharging cycles. They will look at how to monitor the health of each cell and optimize its future usage profile to improve the cell’s lifetime while not significantly sacrificing performance. For example, they will formulate and solve reliability-based online charging optimization problems to predict and proactively prevent lithium plating in lithium-ion batteries.

Even at the end of their first lives, batteries can be repurposed and used in second-life applications, such as stationary energy storage systems within an electrical power grid. As Dr. Hu said, this research field is currently underexplored in the United States. More research and experiments can help alleviate the environmental impacts from land disposal of many used electric vehicle (EV) battery packs. “We are actively looking at this exciting domain, trying to create cost-effective and energy-efficient ways to repurpose used EV batteries. I think a lot of my research in battery reliability will benefit the clean energy initiative.” shared Dr. Hu on the benefits of his research for the future of clean energy. He will also continue to work on engineering design research, looking to improve the environmental sustainability of engineering design, such as optimizing a product design for remanufacturing.

He has received several best paper awards for his research. He was also recognized for his battery reliability research with two Highly Cited Research Paper Awards (2012-2013 and 2020) in the Journal of Applied Energy, received in 2015 and 2022. In 2018, he received the ASME Design Automation Young Investigator Award from the ASME Design Automation Committee. This award was given to him for his research on design for resilience that improves the ability of complex engineered systems to detect, anticipate, and recover from adverse events. His research earned him recognition for making “noteworthy contributions in the area of design automation.”

As important as all his research is, Dr. Hu also finds time for family and recreation during his free time. He has been playing soccer since childhood and still plays regularly. He also enjoys spending time with his two sons and riding the train to Boston with them.

Dr. Hu is currently hiring Ph.D. and undergraduate students, interested in learning how to combine physics (physics-based modeling) and data (machine learning) to solve real-world engineering problems. Interested candidates may contact him at chao.hu@uconn.edu.

We look forward to seeing what Dr. Hu will accomplish as a new faculty member in our center. Welcome Dr. Hu!

Connect With Us