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Office of Naval Research grant will allow UTA researchers to mimic performance of multiple shipboard systems while testing batteries

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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Shipboard electrical systems are very complex and rely on multiple supplies and loads to perform correctly. The varying supplies and loads also make it difficult, if not impossible, to test and predict how a ship’s onboard systems will operate prior to being fully operational at sea.

David Wetz

David Wetz, UTA associate professor of electrical engineering, has received an Office of Naval Research grant that will allow him to use simulations to test how well a battery will perform as part of a full shipboard system.

David Wetz, an associate professor of electrical engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, will utilize a $343,104 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program or DURIP grant from the Office of Naval Research to purchase an OPAL-RT Hardware in the Loop platform that will allow him to use simulations to test how well a battery will perform as part of a full shipboard system.

In a normal test situation, as components are put together, researchers simulate models with a generator and battery. They then observe how each component performs when power is introduced. 

The OPAL-RT will allow Wetz to study how a battery will a perform within a shipboard power system without having the ship. Using low voltage analog electronics, the OPAL-RT is able to understand how the battery being tested is behaving. Using that information, shipboard power simulation is constantly updated and it provides output signals that are modulated by external hardware to mimic the simulations response. In short, it tricks the battery into thinking it is within the full power system.

“This machine allows us to simulate a whole system with just pieces. For instance, an automaker might test a vehicles powertrain by simulating the motor and using laboratory power supplies to emulate it. In this case it tricks the powertrain into thinking it’s being powered by a moving vehicle when in reality it is not.,” Wetz said. “If we only have pieces such as the battery, we can simulate how the whole system will perform and predict very well how a battery will integrate with the shipboard system.

“This is an important addition to our lab because we will be able to take the subscale components we’ve had funded through previous grants and evaluate how they’ll work in a full shipboard system.”

Jonathan Bredow, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering, said Wetz’s research exemplifies the University’s status as a global leader in power electronic and its contributions to global environmental impact under the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“David constantly pushes limits in his research to make truly innovative contributions that improve naval technology. The addition of the OPAL-RT will allow him to more efficiently and effectively apply knowledge gained through his previous grants with ONR,” Bredow said.

Wetz joined UTA in 2010 and runs the Pulsed Power and Energy Lab at UTA, which addresses issues such as safety, thermal and lifetime challenges in batteries that are operated at higher than normal power rates to provide higher output, yet are in increasingly smaller packages.

He won an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2011 and has since been awarded nearly $2.6 million in research funding, including:

  • An $801,224 ONR grant to investigate how batteries age when they’re run at high rates.
  • A $185,000 ONR grant to design and evaluate controls for a 1000 volts-direct-current lead-acid battery for use in shipboard applications.
  • A $320,000 ONR grant to understand the challenges faced when implementing a 1000 volts-direct-current lithium-ion battery.
  • A $180,000 ONR Defense University Instrumentation Program grant to purchase a high-rate commercial battery cycler and environmental chambers to support the research.
  • $200,000 in ONR grants over a three-year period to simulate, design and evaluate a high power Hybrid Energy Storage Module.
  • $100,000 in ONR grants over a two-year period to study the impact of high-pulsed magnetic fields on the corrosion rates of metallic alloys.
  • $250,000 in ONR grants over a two-year period, in strong collaboration with Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Assistant Professor Ankur Jain’s Microscale Thermophysics Laboratory, to characterize the thermal properties of cylindrical lithium-ion batteries.
  • A $288,000 ONR DURIP grant, along with Jain, to buy equipment that enhances the quality of the thermal characterization of batteries.

The work started with Wetz’s $508,000 ONR Young Investigator Award in 2011 to explore battery performance and aging at the fundamental cell level.

-- written by Jeremy Agor

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at

For more on the Strategic Plan, see Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.