HRL Laboratories Explains Groundbreaking Thermal Battery Technology

HRL Laboratories, LLC, has released a video demonstrating the principle behind its groundbreaking work on thermal battery technology for electric cars. The video, “Thermal Battery Laboratory-Scale Demonstration,” reveals that hydrogen can be stored in metal alloys that react with the gas to form compounds called metal hydrides. The thermal battery has a hot side and a cold side. When it discharges, the metal hydride on the cold side releases hydrogen gas and cools. This hydrogen flows to the hot side where it is absorbed into another metal hydride, heating the hot side

According to Dr. John J. Vajo, HRL Laboratories’ principal investigator, “In our demonstration video, we place a small droplet of water on the cool side. As the hydrogen is released, the temperature drops and the water freezes.” The cold hydride reaches temperatures below 0° C (32° F), while the hot hydride reaches maximum temperatures of 75° C (165° F).

HRL Laboratories released the video to educate the public about the technology, which was developed in conjunction with the University of Utah and General Motors for the project, “Thermal Battery Based on Advanced Metal Hydrides for Electric Vehicles.” This project was one of ten projects funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) for their High Energy Advanced Thermal Storage (HEATS) program.

The project goal was to address the critical need of heating and cooling electric vehicles more efficiently. “The driving range of an electric vehicle is limited by the charge of its on-board battery packs,” said Dr. Vajo. “By offloading heating and cooling to thermal batteries, electric cars could be driven much further on a single charge.”

Thermal battery technology offers a number of unique features – including rapid cooling, shock and vibration resistance, silence, and miniaturization – that could prove useful in other real-world applications.

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California ( is a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors specializing in research into sensors and materials, information and systems sciences, applied electromagnetics, and microelectronics. HRL provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.

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