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Australian Engineer Works Alongside Americans in Advanced Power and Energy

By Dustin Q. Diaz, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Public Affairs | Sept. 7, 2016

WEST BETHESDA, Md. —

When the chance came to work and study abroad with the engineers and scientists at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Maryland, Kane Ivory did not hesitate to say yes.

"I had been thinking about this for several years and had applied once before, but this is when the opportunity opened up," Ivory said. "And when an opportunity like this one opens up, you have to take it when it's there and make it work."

Ivory is an electrical engineer from Melbourne, Australia. He works for his country's Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group but, since March, he's been doing it here in West Bethesda for the Advanced Power and Energy Branch (APEB) under the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP). ESEP is one of the Department of Defense's Defense Exchange Personnel Programs that provides a framework for military and civilian participants to spend one or more years working in the host nation's defense research and development organizations, joint program offices or operational defense establishments on projects directly related to their areas of expertise.

"The ESEP is a memorandum of understanding between America and Australia," Ivory said. "It allows engineers and scientists to go both ways between governments and there's an existing set of agreements on financial, legal and logistical matters that could make these things take a long time otherwise. I'm here under a year-long fellowship and my home organization is funding everything for me while I'm here."

Ivory, a 2005 graduate of Monash University in Melbourne, was no stranger to Carderock before coming here. He said he has had a working relationship with Julie Simmons and Clint Winchester of APEB for several years and, when one of his colleagues came to Carderock under ESEP, he decided he would attempt to do it too. He said he wanted to combine his efforts with his counterparts from an allied nation to build on his work on lithium ion battery safety with new facilities and people.

"These guys have been doing it for years, for decades, for some of them. It's great to be able to work with people who are very familiar and have a lot of lessons learned, so I can get that experience before I go back and operate my own facilities in Australia," Ivory said.

Daphne Fuentevilla, an APEB senior electrochemical researcher and Ivory's colleague at Carderock, said Carderock's role as a designated technical agent for the U.S. Navy's Lithium Battery Safety Program makes it an ideal location for Ivory to be during this exchange.

"Kane is here working with us on understanding how that safety program works and the types of tests and approaches to testing we have to see what is applicable to Australia," Fuentevilla said. "One common area of interest for Australia and the United States is early fault detection for lithium battery failures. Normal battery management systems will detect a fault or failure as it's happening, but not necessarily with sufficient time to prevent system-level hazards. We're looking at technologies that would provide additional early warning so that you can effectively implement hazard mitigation solutions to prevent a small problem from becoming a bigger problem."

Part of Ivory's work here is to evaluate prototypes currently in development to determine whether they are viable for incorporation into U.S. Navy battery systems and battery management systems.

"It's an activity in which Carderock was already engaged, but now I'm here in both a learning capacity and as an additional resource to help," Ivory said. "Part of the reason it's beneficial for me to be here doing this is that I can take back all that knowledge and experience with me, which is relevant to DST's role in Australia as well.

"Another aspect of my work here is a chance to take a break from some of the project management associated with specific programs at home and brush up on my engineering skills with research-type projects that line up with Carderock's interests. I'm actually getting hands-on lab time, running tests and troubleshooting setup and equipment issues, all of which are also essential to understanding how the U.S. battery safety lab and processes work. I'll be able to return home with a broader perspective on battery system safety, but also with a refreshed skill set for the lab."

Another advantage that Ivory said he has already enjoyed during his time abroad under ESEP is the scale of study and number of people working in his field in the United States, along with his ability to meet those people, talk to them and work with them. He said with Australia's remote location he hasn't had as many of these opportunities but, here in the U.S., he has already met many government and industry players through his work at Carderock that he wouldn't have had otherwise, including at a battery safety council two weeks after his arrival.

"That was a really good experience for me just being able to meet the people whose papers I have read, but never met in person," Ivory said. "The lithium-ion battery community is very active in the U.S. I've been taking advantage of the local conferences since arriving here; it's a bit harder to justify airfare to fly here from Australia for a one-week conference. So from my point of view, to have access to and meet some of these people, find out what they're working on, learn about things I wasn't aware of; from my point of view, that's been really good."

Fuentevilla said Ivory is the first engineer she has worked with under ESEP and she felt the collaboration has gone very smoothly between the Australian and his American counterparts.

"He's been integrated completely into the group as an engineer with our team and he's gotten a lot done on the projects," Fuentevilla said. "I think it's been really interesting and a way to form a bond with another organization that has similar goals. It benefits everyone."

Ivory's assignment at NSWCCD is governed by DoD Directive 5230.20 and is set to last for one year.