18. October 2022 | Magazine:

Energy saving at the Battery LabFactory Braunschweig Scientist Marcus Vogt implemented an Industry 4.0 approach to optimize battery cell production

With the work done by Marcus Vogt, the Battery LabFactory Braunschweig (BLB) can reduce the energy consumption of the dry room by more than 20 percent. This reduction was achieved by implementing a cyber-physical system of the dry room technical building services (TBS). We asked Marcus to answer some questions about his motivation and approach.

The technical building services of the BLB enable a relative humidity below 1 per cent at room temperature in the dry rooms.
Credits: BLB/TU Braunschweig

Mr Vogt, against the background of the current energy crisis, energy efficiency has become a critical issue in many industries. You have investigated methods to monitor and model dry rooms to reduce their energy consumption in your research. What was your motivation behind it?

My motivation was based on two things: The first motivator was curiosity. I understood there was a research gap regarding dry room efficiency through digitalization. Then I realized that we have access to much data about the technical building services at the BLB. From then on, we took one step after another and explored where it would take us. The second motivator was that I realized it’s the right thing to do because saving energy is essential in our current situation. If you see the potential to save energy and realize that you can implement the right approach, you should do it.

How did you approach the topic, and what did you achieve?

I was curious to find out whether a simulation model of the dry room would be good enough to represent the essential technical building services. When we found the model was valid, I was curious about other applications for which it could be used. So we used the model to calculate alternative set points, reduce volume flows, and did further studies. Then we saw in the model it’s feasible to reduce the energy consumption depending on internal and external influencing factors. We validated these strategies first in minor tests on the weekends and later on work days. Step by step, we continuously improved the model and the efficiency measures until we got to a reduction of more than 20 percent in the average energy consumption.

How important is the topic of reducing the energy consumption of TBS and dry rooms, particularly regarding battery cells?

We should first check the hot spots when we talk about enhancing energy efficiency. The dry room is a hot spot in battery cell production, even more so in research pilot lines like the BLB. Here we have two dry rooms, which comprise 78 percent of the total energy consumption. As you can see, it’s a significant contributor to energy consumption and the environmental impacts of battery cell production.

What are the essential findings and results of your research?

Two things are essential in this context. First, it’s important to consider more extended periods over at least a year when optimizing the operation phase. Over this period, there are many moments in which we can adapt the control of dry room equipment elements and reduce the volume flows without decreasing the quality of the dry room environment. The second key finding is that even though we have a correctly dimensioned dry room, we can reduce its energy consumption through intelligent control algorithms, which depend primarily on external conditions such as ambient temperature and humidity.

What type of infrastructure was necessary?

For the simulation of the dry room, we used Modelica, an excellent language for TBS and physical systems in general. The continuous energy efficiency measures are implemented in Python, a programming language. From a technical infrastructure perspective, you need to access and control the components of the ventilation systems, for example, through open interfaces. Of course, you may need some additional sensors depending on the setup of your dry room. The know-how you need to perform this task is mainly from the mechanical engineering domain. However, it would help if you were interested in digitalization and maybe even like to program a bit.

In light of the current energy crisis – how do you think other stakeholders can benefit from your work at the BLB?

I have published a paper in the journal of cleaner production on the energy-saving approaches we implemented at the BLB. Moreover, this publication includes the control algorithm we use at the BLB. These are published in a repository along with this publication. It is open-access and open-source to help transfer this knowledge to other users of dry rooms. I want to encourage everyone to take a look at our contribution and try to apply it to their use cases to overcome the energy crisis.

Thank you very much, Mr Vogt.