Dr. Luke Roberson, senior principal investigator for Flight Research within the Exploration Research and Technology Directorate at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is collaborating on research of a new solid-state battery prototype with Dr. Ryan Karkkainen, a composite material expert at the University of Miami. The battery composition was developed by Xiangyang Zhou, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. Three students from the university currently are working on the prototype with Roberson.
A piece of the prototype structure for solid-state batteries
The battery is made by heat treating vacuum compressed several layers of small carbon fiber squares and placing the solid stare battery layer between them. Composite reinforcement and mechanical/electrical testing will be performed at Kennedy in the near future. The thickness of battery is just 2-3 mm and it is suitable to be employed in microsatellites, including CubeSats. A CubeSat (U-class spacecraft) is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research that is made up of multiples of 10×10×11.35 cm cubic units.
CubeSats are no bigger than a large toaster and batteries occupy considerable space in it. This new battery's size would occupy about one-third of the area of batteries currently used to power the miniature satellites, thus allowing more space for the compact science payload.
Placing a normal battery in an experiment at NASA takes up to 20 to 35 percent of the available volume, with this development the battery can now be placed with the payload structure providing more space to the scientists.
This technology could be used on satellite structural trusses, the International Space Station, or to power habitat structures established on another planet. Commercial applications could include automobile frames or tabletop battery rechargers. These batteries can be made to be impact, moisture and flame resistant with proper reinforcement, further increasing its scope of utilization.