NASA Glenn Research Center is teaming up with the DOE Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) led by Argonne Labs to develop better batteries for future space exploration missions. The JCESR is composed of national leaders in science and engineering from academia, the private sector, and national laboratories.
The Lithium Ion batteries we have today store twice the energy of batteries in 1991. This capacity will not meet NASA's needs for future space endeavors.
NASA's batteries will power future rovers, Extravehicular Activity (EVA) spacewalk suits, exploratory rovers and green aviation. The research teams are looking at magnesium and calcium as possible alternative replacements for Lithium-based cells since these alternative elements can hold two positive charges per ion vs. one for Lithium. Packing the ions more densely is also being looked at.
Scientists will need high-performance computing to model complex physical and chemical processes. NASA Ames has the Pleiades supercomputer which is one of the worlds most powerful. The system contains the following types of Intel® Xeon® processors: E5-2680v2 (Ivy Bridge), E5-2670 (Sandy Bridge), and X5670 (Westmere). Pleiades is named after the astronomical open star cluster of the same name.
The space community needs significant breakthroughs in basic research before we can produce large batteries that are affordable, efficient, safe and reliable enough for widespread use. There is a technology gap in energy storage that must be overcome. Thus far the scientific community has not achieved the theoretical limits on specific energy. Even if we can improve lithium ion to its theoretical maximum, you will only be able to improve the Li-ion practical vs. theoretical limit ever so slightly.
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