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Modular Battery Charge Controller

Distributed charge control and a masterless communication bus enhance this controller’s robustness for use in battery energy-storage applications.

A new approach to masterless, distributed, digital-charge control for batteries requiring charge control has been developed and implemented. This approach is required in battery chemistries that need cell-level charge control for safety and is characterized by the use of one controller per cell, resulting in redundant sensors for critical components, such as voltage, temperature, and current. The charge controllers in a given battery interact in a masterless fashion for the purpose of cell balancing, charge control, and state-of-charge estimation. This makes the battery system invariably fault-tolerant.

altThe solution to the single- fault failure, due to the use of a single charge controller (CC), was solved by implementing one CC per cell and linking them via an isolated communication bus [e.g., controller area network (CAN)] in a masterless fashion so that the failure of one or more CCs will not impact the remaining functional CCs. Each microcontroller-based CC digitizes the cell voltage (Vcell), two cell temperatures, and the voltage across the switch (V); the latter variable is used in conjunction with Vcell to estimate the bypass current for a given bypass resistor. Furthermore, CC1 digitizes the battery current (I1) and battery voltage (Vbatt) and CC5 digitizes a second battery current (I2). As a result, redundant readings are taken for temperature, battery current, and battery voltage through the summation of the individual cell voltages given that each CC knows the voltage of the other cells.

For the purpose of cell balancing, each CC periodically and independently transmits its cell voltage and stores the received cell voltage of the other cells in an array. The position in the array depends on the identifier (ID) of the transmitting CC. After eight cell voltage receptions, the array is checked to see if one or more cells did not transmit. If one or more transmissions are missing, the missing cell(s) is (are) eliminated from cell-balancing calculations.

The cell-balancing algorithm is based on the error between the cell’s voltage and the other cells and is categorized into four zones of operation. The algorithm is executed every second and, if cell balancing is activated, the error variable is set to a negative low value. The largest error between the cell and the other cells is found and the zone of operation determined. If the error is zero or negative, then the cell is at the lowest voltage and no balancing action is needed. If the error is less than a predetermined negative value, a Cell Bad Flag is set. If the error is positive, then cell balancing is needed, but a hysteretic zone is added to prevent the bypass circuit from triggering repeatedly near zero error. This approach keeps the cells within a predetermined voltage range.

This work was done by Robert Button of Glenn Research Center and Marcelo Gonzalez of Cleveland State University.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18296-1.