Chemical and Biological Engineering ETDs

Publication Date



Li/FeS2 thermal batteries provide a stable, robust, and reliable power source capable of long-term electrical energy storage without performance degradation. These systems rely on a eutectic salt that melts at elevated temperature, activating the cell. When the electrolyte melts, the cathode becomes a suspension, with cathode particles suspended in a molten salt. The suspension experiences mechanical deformation, or slumping.' This slump changes the mechanical compression of the cell, as well as the tortuosity and electronic and ionic conductivity of the cell as the cathode mesostructure is reordered in response to the external compressive stress. The combined effect of deformation, component composition, and manufacturing conditions on electrical conductivity has not been studied, yet the cathode electrical properties are critically important to battery performance. This thesis presents simulation results from a computer model in combination with experiments to elucidate the effects of electrical conductivity in FeS2 cathode pellets when composition and manufacturing parameters are varied. Experiments applied impedance spectroscopy measurements of pressed-powder cathode pellets before and after slumping. Pellets were manufactured with variations in pellet density, FeS2 particle size distribution, and FeS2 content. The results showed that prior to slumping, the electrical conductivity increased with pellet density and FeS2 content. After slumping, pellets exhibited greater electrical conductivity, but the effects of processing parameters appear to have been erased, at least within the ranges tested. The conformal decomposition finite element method (CDFEM) was applied to surface-meshed geometric representations of cathode microstructures generated from microcomputed tomography reconstructions. Results from the SIERRA/Aria finite element code indicate that the selected processing and composition parameters do not provide a clear trend on the preslumped electrical conductivity, but density slightly affected the postslumped conductivity. These results indicate that the simulations lacked fidelity compared to experiments. However, the simulations combined with experimental data provide a fundamental look at the effects of processing and composition on thermal battery microstructure and electrical conductivity. The understanding of manufacturing effects on battery performance is not well developed, and this effort represents a step forward in correlated and predicting performance of cells based upon observed manufacturing trends.'


thermal batteries, processing, manufacturing, finite element method, impedance spectroscopy, microstructure, 3D, microcomputed tomography

Document Type




Degree Name

Chemical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Chemical and Biological Engineering

First Advisor

Schunk, P. Randall

First Committee Member (Chair)

Schunk, P. Randall

Second Committee Member

Apblett, Christopher A.

Third Committee Member

Han, Sang M.

Fourth Committee Member

Roberts, Scott A.