Exploring the Outer Solar System Takes Power, Here’s a Way to Miniaturize Nuclear Batteries for Deep Space

As science and technology advance, we’re asking our space missions to deliver more and more results. NASA’s MSL Curiosity and Perseverance rovers illustrate this fact. Perseverance is an exceptionally exquisite assemblage of technologies. These cutting-edge rovers need a lot of power to fulfill their tasks, and that means bulky and expensive power sources. 

Space exploration is an increasingly energy-hungry endeavour. Orbiters and fly-by missions can perform their tasks using solar power, at least as far out as Jupiter. And ion drives can take spacecraft to more distant regions. But to really understand distant worlds like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, or even the more distant Pluto, we’ll need to eventually land a rover and/or lander on them just as we have on Mars. 

Those missions require more power to operate, and that usually means MMRTGs (Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.) But they’re bulky, heavy, and expensive, three undesirable traits for spacecraft. Each one costs over $100 million. Is there a better solution?

Stephen Polly thinks there is. 

Polly is a research scientist at the NanoPower Research Laboratories at the Rochester Institute of Technology. His work focuses on something most of us have likely never heard of: the development, growth, characterization, and integration of III-V materials by metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy (MOVPE).

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European scientists are developing nuclear waste batteries for use in space

The ESA’s found a way to get around using Russian fuel to power its ambitions in space

BY Tristan Greene

Ministers at the European Space Agency (ESA) recently approved funding for a special project to build nuclear waste-powered batteries for use in space exploration. If successful, the new tech would make it possible to conduct operations in areas where access to solar energy is degraded or absent, such as on the dark side of the moon.

Researchers working with the ESA believe they can use americium, a radioactive element derived from plutonium decay, to generate sufficient heat to both warm equipment and generate electricity to power functionality. This would represent the first time americium has been used in this manner, but the innovation comes at a necessary time for the European space program.

Current batteries rely on plutonium-238, an element that’s challenging and expensive to produce. The US and Russia house the lion’s share of the world’s supply and, unfortunately, NASA barely has enough to power its own ambitions. The only option, at this point, is for the ESA to find an alternative.

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A game-changing new hybrid EV battery recharges in only 72 seconds

The new technology could massively boost small-city EV adoption.

By Chris Young

A new battery technology developed by Swiss startup Morand could see electric vehicle (EV) batteries charge in less time than it takes to fill an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle at a gas station, the company reveals.

The new technology, which can charge electric cars in only 72 seconds, is a hybrid system that uses technology from traditional batteries and ultracapacitors. 

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Researchers fabricate miniaturized bionic ocean-battery

The structure comparison of the marine microbial ecosystems and the miniaturized bionic ocean-battery. Both systems possess same physical structure (water column layer and sediment layer) and same ecological structure (primary producers, primary degraders, and ultimate consumers). The marine microbial ecosystems are huge with the average depth exceeding 4000 m, while the miniaturized bionic ocean-battery was compacted in a vessel with a depth of 5 cm, thus accelerating the electron flow by shortening the electron transfer distance. In marine microbial ecosystems, especially in anaerobic sediments, the highly diversified microbial species and their complex interactions make the electron flow dispersed to various microbially mediated biogeochemical processes, i.e., elemental cycles. In contrast, the miniaturized bionic ocean-battery fabricated using the synthetic community only contains four microbial species connected by the specific energy carriers. This simplified structure targetedly directs electrons towards the only target, i.e., electrical current.

By Zhang Nannan

The researchers from the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a miniaturized bionic ocean-battery, a bio-solar cell that converts light into electricity, by mimicking the basic ecological structure of marine microbial ecosystems. This study was published in Nature Communications.

Oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface area. From the perspective of energy, marine ecosystems are a huge solar energy bioconversion system in which microorganisms dominate the energy conversion processes.

Energy conversion in marine ecosystems begins with photosynthesis. Photosynthetic microorganisms, called primary producers, located in the euphotic zone of water column, absorb solar energy and convert photons into electrons that are used to fix carbon dioxide into organic matter. The organic matter is partly consumed by plankton living in the water column and partly deposited into the marine sediments where facultative anaerobic or strictly anaerobic microorganisms mineralize the complex organic matter to carbon dioxide through successive oxidation.

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A 5-minute EV charging startup raises $59 million

A Cambridge University professor’s ultrafast EV battery startup has raised $59 million in Series B funding. Nyobolt aims to develop a battery that can achieve 5-minute EV charging time.

By Michelle Lewis

Goslar, Germany-based H.C. Starck Tungsten Powders (HSC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Hanoi-headquartered Masan High-Tech Materials, the largest manufacturer of mid-stream tungsten products outside of China, led the funding for Cambridge, UK-based Nyobolt.

EV charging in 5 minutes.

H.C. Starck will help Nyobolt scale up its R&D and manufacturing centers in the UK and US, as well as its battery recycling program. 

Nyobolt’s executives say it’s currently focusing on developing batteries for high-performance racing EVs, and that its batteries could be ready for use in mass-market EV models later this decade, according to Reuters.

Hady Seyeda, CEO of H.C. Starck Tungsten Powders, said:

Nyobolt’s technology is a real breakthrough that we can help commercialize based on our vast experience in transferring innovative solutions into large-scale manufacturing. This partnership is also going to accelerate the development toward a circular economy for batteries via enhanced recycling and new models of use.

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This is Continental’s robot battery that could change the electric car market

This robotic battery can be installed in almost any electric vehicle and will facilitate and optimize charging.

The electric vehicle industry is advancing by leaps and bounds. Practically all car manufacturers are developing models that can be competitive in a market that is still dominated by Tesla. One factor that has limited the development of this technology is the batteries , their charging time and the autonomy they give the vehicle. In addition, there is the dependence on cables and outlets to be able to charge them.

Continental , the German firm known worldwide for making tires, is working on developing a wireless-charging robotic battery alongside Volterio , an Austria-based startup. The device has two parts: one that is fixed to the car (the one that receives the energy), and another that moves on the ground under the car (the one that sends the electrical charge). For an electric vehicle to charge correctly, the two parts must be aligned, which does not happen if the driver parks incorrectly. So there is power loss and the charging is not as efficient. Continental’s robot is capable of locating the precise place where it has to be positioned to achieve efficient loading, and it does so in an automated manner.

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3D Nanochains could increase battery capacity, cut charging time

Nanochains in a coin cell battery. Credit: Henry Hamann/ Purdue University.

How long the battery of your phone or computer lasts depends on how many lithium ions can be stored in the battery’s negative electrode material.

If the battery runs out of these ions, it can’t generate an electrical current to run a device and ultimately fails.

Materials with a higher lithium ion storage capacity are either too heavy or the wrong shape to replace graphite, the electrode material currently used in today’s batteries.

Purdue University scientists and engineers have introduced a potential way that these materials could be restructured into a new electrode design that would allow them to increase a battery’s lifespan, make it more stable and shorten its charging time.

The study, appearing as the cover of the September issue of Applied Nano Materials, created a net-like structure, called a “nanochain,” of antimony, a metalloid known to enhance lithium ion charge capacity in batteries.

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New Quantum Technology To Make Charging Electric Cars As Fast as Pumping Gas

Quantum charging will cut the charging time of electric vehicles from ten hours to three minutes.

By INSTITUTE FOR BASIC SCIENCE

Whether it’s photovoltaics or fusion, sooner or later, human civilization must turn to renewable energies. This is deemed inevitable considering the ever-growing energy demands of humanity and the finite nature of fossil fuels. As such, much research has been pursued in order to develop alternative sources of energy, most of which utilize electricity as the main energy carrier. The extensive R&D in renewables has been accompanied by gradual societal changes as the world adopted new products and devices running on renewables. The most striking change as of recently is the rapid adoption of electric vehicles. While they were hardly seen on the roads even 10 years ago, now millions of electric cars are being sold annually. The electric car market is one of the most rapidly growing sectors, and it helped propel Elon Musk to become the wealthiest man in the world.

Unlike traditional cars which derive energy from the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, electric vehicles rely on batteries as the storage medium for their energy. For a long time, batteries had far lower energy density than those offered by hydrocarbons, which resulted in very low ranges of early electric vehicles. However, gradual improvement in battery technologies eventually allowed the drive ranges of electric cars to be within acceptable levels in comparison to gasoline-burning cars. It is no understatement that the improvement in battery storage technology was one of the main technical bottlenecks which had to be solved in order to kickstart the current electric vehicle revolution.

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GM WANTS FUTURE EVS TO BE HOME POWER BANKS—AND IT STARTS WITH A CALIFORNIA PILOT PROGRAM

By BENGT HALVORSON

Electric vehicles have the potential to be more than just transportation—by using their battery packs for supplemental home energy and grid stabilization. 

That’s what a collaboration between GM and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), announced Tuesday morning, aims to explore—with the eventual hope of making every GM vehicle bidirectional-charging compatible in the future. 

Up to 85% of U.S. EV owners charge primarily at home, according to GM, and electric vehicles have large battery packs that are potentially available 24/7 but only typically used for a small portion of their capacity. 

The partners note that the average California home uses about 20 kwh per day. That’s less than a tenth of the GMC Hummer EV’s battery capacity. 

Within the pilot program, the companies will develop a software interface for the functionality, and decide on a core hardware set—to include a smart inverter and transfer switch. GM says that, depending on the required load, the solution it’s considering might be able to use both AC or DC. 

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World’s smallest battery has been designed to power a computer the size of a grain of dust, that could be used as discrete sensors, or to power miniaturised medical implants

By RYAN MORRISON

  • The miniature battery is made up of a series of coiled strips of film that recoils 
  • This produces enough electricity to power a small sensor for up to ten hours
  • These could be used in medical research and monitoring in the form of sensors
  • It could also allow for a fleet of microscopic dust-sized sensor to monitor the air 

The world’s smallest battery has been designed to power a computer the size of a grain of dust, that could be used as discrete sensors, or for medical implants. 

A team led by Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany say these microscopic batteries are needed to power the ongoing miniaturisation of electronics.  

Smart dust devices, including biocompatible sensor systems in the body, require computers to handle data at sizes smaller than a grain of dust, but while the devices are getting smaller, powering them has proved to be problematic.

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1,000-cycle lithium-sulfur battery could quintuple electric vehicle ranges

A diagram of the battery shows how lithium ions can return to the lithium electrode while the lithium polysulfides can’t get through the membrane separating the electrodes. In addition, spiky dendrites growing from the lithium electrode can’t short the battery by piercing the membrane and reaching the sulfur electrode.

by  University of Michigan

A new biologically inspired battery membrane has enabled a battery with five times the capacity of the industry-standard lithium ion design to run for the thousand-plus cycles needed to power an electric car.

A network of aramid nanofibers, recycled from Kevlar, can enable lithium-sulfur batteries to overcome their Achilles heel of cycle life—the number of times it can be charged and discharged—a University of Michigan team has shown.

“There are a number of reports claiming several hundred cycles for lithium-sulfur batteries, but it is achieved at the expense of other parameters—capacity, charging rate, resilience and safety. The challenge nowadays is to make a battery that increases the cycling rate from the former 10 cycles to hundreds of cycles and satisfies multiple other requirements including cost,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Irving Langmuir Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, who led the research.

“Biomimetic engineering of these batteries integrated two scales—molecular and nanoscale. For the first time, we integrated ionic selectivity of cell membranes and toughness of cartilage. Our integrated system approach enabled us to address the overarching challenges of lithium-sulfur batteries.”

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This lithium-sulfur battery could quintuple electric vehicle ranges

By University of Michigan

A new biologically inspired battery membrane has enabled a battery with five times the capacity of the industry-standard lithium-ion design to run for the thousand-plus cycles needed to power an electric car.

A network of aramid nanofibers, recycled from Kevlar, can enable lithium-sulfur batteries to overcome their Achilles heel of cycle life—the number of times it can be charged and discharged—a University of Michigan team has shown.

“There are a number of reports claiming several hundred cycles for lithium-sulfur batteries, but it is achieved at the expense of other parameters—capacity, charging rate, resilience and safety.

The challenge nowadays is to make a battery that increases the cycling rate from the former 10 cycles to hundreds of cycles and satisfies multiple other requirements including cost,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Irving Langmuir Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, who led the research.

Continue reading… “This lithium-sulfur battery could quintuple electric vehicle ranges”
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