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Institution news

60 seconds with…Billy Wu, Imperial College London

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Ahead of his opening keynote presentation at the Institution’s VTMS conference, we caught up with Billy Wu to find out what topics he’s looking forward to discussing.

Please can you kindly explain your role and involvement with these technologies.

Billy Wu (BW): As a senior lecturer at Imperial College London, I co-lead the Electrochemical Science and Engineering group. Here we work at the interface between fundamental science and engineering application of electrochemical energy technologies such as batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors. Our research group activities span developing new materials, modelling the performance of these devices, their thermal management and control.

What is the number one challenge for engineers working on vehicle thermal management systems, in your opinion?

BW: Understanding how the thermal management of the battery system impacts its lifetime and safety is a key measure of success. Batteries will be at the heart of electric vehicles, however we need to ensure that as we push energy density boundaries, we do so without compromising on safety whilst extending lifetime. Here high fidelity models are essential for understanding lifetime, with challenges remaining in describing thermal runaway behaviour.

What is the most important development in this field at the moment, either within your organisation or in the industry in general?

BW: One of the most important developments is in that of future battery chemistries. Many have suggested that solid-state batteries have the potential to be safer and more energy dense than conventional lithium-ion batteries, however significant challenges around their manufacturability still remain, with new pack designs and thermal management considerations.

What technology in particular would you say is the technology to watch in the industry?

BW: From the perspective of thermal management systems, the increasing interest in immersion cooling of batteries is definitely something to watch. Submerging a battery pack in a dielectric fluid has the potential to dramatically increase the heat removal capabilities of a system, however there are still significant challenges that need to be overcome for the technology in terms of understanding it’s impact of lifetime, how it impacts the safety characteristics and integration challenges.

What can attendees expect from your presentation at this year’s conference?

BW: Design of battery thermal management systems requires a multi-scale view of problem. In my presentation, I will cover aspects spanning multiple scales such as heat generation characteristics in cells, anisotropic thermal properties of cells, how different cell formats react to different thermal management solutions including base cooling, cell tab cooling and immersion cooling, and ultimately key safety considerations. No doubt questions will remain after the presentation, but hopefully the talk will provide useful understanding of the state-of-the-art and food for thought in future areas.

What other topics are you looking forward to hearing about and discussing at the upcoming conference?

BW: These conferences are an excellent opportunity to learn about some of the challenges of vehicle thermal management in emerging areas of electrification. As such, I’m excited to hear about the latest development, trends and opportunities in applications such a buses, planes and high performance vehicles, especially at opportunities for greater system integration.

Why do you feel it is important for all engineers to attend the VTMS conference?

BW: These conferences are an excellent platform to get exposure to new ideas in the field as well as get a feel for current trends in the area. Beyond this, the conference has an excellent combination of technical content but also opportunities for networking, where new opportunities can be created.


The Institution's Vehicle Thermal Management Systems Conference and Exhibition takes place on 14-15 June at the British Motor Museum.

VTMS 15 will showcase the latest research and technological advances in heat transfer, energy management, thermal comfort and the efficient integration and control of all thermal systems within vehicles. Don't miss this opportunity to benefit from the experience of engineers operating across multiple industries, learn the lessons from recent projects and understand how common problems are being addressed: visit www.imeche.org/vtms for full details.

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