NASA Bets On Silicon-Anode Li-ion and Li-S Batteries

SEP 15 2014 BY MARK KANE 11

Concept space station

Concept space station

NASA recently announced four proposals for advanced energy storage technologies that may be used to power the agency’s future space missions.

As it turns out, NASA is looking in a similar direction as automotive industry, seeing the future in silicon-anode Li-ion and Li-S batteries. Noteworthy is that one of the suppliers is Amprius.

Managed by the Game Changing Development Program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the four selected technology proposals are:

— Silicon Anode Based Cells for High Specific Energy Systems, submitted by Amprius, Inc, in Sunnyvale, California
— High Energy Density and Long-Life Li-S Batteries for Aerospace Applications, submitted by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena
— Advanced High Energy Rechargeable Lithium-Sulfur Batteries, submitted by Indiana University in Bloomington
— Garnet Electrolyte Based Safe, Lithium-Sulfur Energy Storage, submitted by the University of Maryland, College Park

Developments are divided into three stages:

“Phase I awards are approximately $250,000 and provide funding to conduct an eight-month component test and analysis phase. Phase II is an engineering development unit hardware phase that provides as much as $1 million per award for one year, while Phase III consists of the prototype hardware development, as much as $2 million per award for 18 months.”

Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington stated:

“NASA’s advanced space technology development doesn’t stop with hardware and instruments for spacecraft. New energy storage technology will be critical to our future exploration of deep space — whether missions to an asteroid, Mars or beyond. That’s why we’re investing in this critical mission technology area.”

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11 Comments on "NASA Bets On Silicon-Anode Li-ion and Li-S Batteries"

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These are the next two big battery developments on the road to Li-Air batteries for EVs. Li-S is further off than Si-anode but it is pretty close to getting out of the lab stage and into manufacturing.

That’s nice, but what’s appropriate for NASA and what’s appropriate for the auto industry might not be the same. Satellites have weight, reliability, and heat concerns that justify spending a lot more than a automaker would.

For NASA the price per Kw for Aerospace it does not matter, for auto industry is a deal breaker.

Sounds like NASA’s abandoned Hydrogen Fuel Cells after multiple reliability issues exhibited during Space Shuttle missions. Solar and batteries for intra-system activities make the most sense.

Care to cite the instances of failure?

According to the University of Minnesota:

‘They are known to be extremely reliable [94]. Not one fuel cell in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) programs has ever failed. The major problem with Apollo 13, for example, was related to the oxygen tank, not the fuel cell itself [95].’

http://cset.mnsu.edu/engagethermo/components_fuelcell.html

DaveMart… You ever bother to do a simple Google search? Sheesh….

Fuel Cell Causes Shuttle Atlantis Launch Scrub:

http://www.space.com/2851-fuel-cell-glitch-scrubs-atlantis-shuttle-launch.html

Fuel Cell Durability / Corrosion Issues:

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/22/science/fuel-cells-may-delay-shuttle.html

NASA tries to fix earlier less durable Fuel Cells by using new (expensive) materials:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/shuttlestation/fuel_cell.html

Fuel Cell Failure on Columbia:

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/22/science/fuel-cells-may-delay-shuttle.html

Wiki says: “Although the STS-2 mission had been planned for a duration of five days, with a few hours a day spent testing the Canadarm, the flight was cut short when one of the three fuel cells that produced electricity and drinking water failed. The mission was shortened to two days, and the Canadarm tests were canceled”

I can find more examples of Fuel Cell failures in the Space Program, if you want.

Can’t wait till people start putting in 10,000 psi hydrogen tanks in their cars… The nightly news will be fun to watch, again.

My googling turned up the Minnesota University link.
To make sure it was current I specified the last month.

Your links:
Atlantis Shuttle: 2006
NY Times: 1981!!
Nasa article: on upgrading the fuel cell materials, at the START of the shuttle program!
Finally, Colombia, 1981

Perhaps you should confine your googling to find stuff which is remotely relevant and current.

LOL of course NASA has not abandoned H2 fuel cells. Even Musk says they’re very good for space.

Reliability is an FC strength, which is why companies like Ballard Power get almost all their revenue from backup generators for difficult to service areas (e.g. remote cellphone towers). $10,000 per kW is actually competitive.

Fuel cells have three major downsides: stack cost, infrastructure, and efficiency. For space, cost barely matters (even $100k/kW is fine) and the other two don’t matter at all.

If the battery can handle outer space, it should be able to handle Michigan winters… maybe.

Actually for space based probes a TARPS (Thermoacoustic radioisotope power system) seems to be more appropriate. It not only provide electricity but does so for years on a row. It is actually the same as an RTG also with Pu238 but heat conversion yield is increased from 3-8 % to 20-30 %, which means more power from the same plutonium mass or the same power from much less plutonium. Lanl has made a publication on this a decade ago, so by now it should be in its second or third generation. Probably almost ready for the next Curiosity class rover or the first Venus rover along with high temperature SiC circuits.
But for closer to Earth satellites batteries are indeed a better option since no nuclear material is involved.

Yeah, but that’s what it’s all about. New tech isn’t only to increase capacity, it’s also to increase the reliability… especially in space where voltage sags can destroy circuitry and cycle life has to be Voyager status (20 years at least).