Dealing with battery problems on your phone, tablet, or laptop can be frustrating.
Batteries can fail or break down despite being an integral part of our daily lives. Even minor inconveniences, like having to charge them more frequently, could lead to costly repairs and even the purchase of a new device. Even larger electronics like cars and hoverboards can catch fire.
With increasing importance placed on sustainability in aviation, there is increasing interest in using batteries to wholly or partially power electric propulsion systems on all sizes of aircraft.
Could there be a safer way to make batteries that don’t catch fire or fail?
NASA’s SABERS (or “Solid State Architecture Batteries for Enhanced Safety and Rechargeability“) is a NASA project that studies how to make safer batteries by using new materials and innovative construction methods.
We aim to develop a battery with significantly more energy than current lithium-ion batteries. The battery would also not lose its capacity, catch fire or pose a danger to passengers if there is an emergency.
“Instead of buying a standard battery, we decided to create a new one tailored to the specific performance requirements of an electric airplane,” stated Rocco Viggiano (lead SABERS researcher at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland).
Solid-state batteries are the best choice.
SABERS batteries are not made with liquids, unlike many other batteries. An excellent battery is simpler to package, has lower safety risks, and can withstand more significant damage than a battery that contains liquids.
This project examined the ability of a unique combination of sulfur and selenium to hold an electric charge.
Solid-state sulfur-selenium batteries are cool to the touch and don’t catch fire. It is slimmer than lithium-ion batteries, and it has more energy storage. Viggiano stated that it can withstand a beating and still function, even in less-than-ideal conditions.
Sulfur is a byproduct of oil refining, which has additional benefits. The element is readily available and ready to be used worldwide. This waste product can be transformed into something that will power environmentally-friendly vehicles with some imagination.
SABERS also includes imagination.
This project aims to combine elements that have never been combined to create a battery. A NASA-developed component called “holey graphene,” which allows air through its pores to conduct electricity, has an extremely high level of electrical conductivity. It is incredibly lightweight and eco-friendly.
Viggiano stated that this material was never used in batteries and is being combined with other materials.
SABERS Makes Strides
Low discharge rates are a hallmark of solid-state batteries. This means that the power flowing out of the storm at one time is too low. SABERS researchers almost doubled the discharge rate to show that solid-state batteries could power larger electronics.
“We achieved our goal. Viggiano stated that we could increase this rate with more development. Companies like Uber have been drawn to the project’s achievements and goals by companies interested in making vehicles for Advanced Air Mobility environments.
Next, SABERS will put the battery design through its paces. This will involve testing the battery design in real-world situations, assuring it is safe, and collecting data about its performance. The method can be further optimized if it is successful.
Safety is still the most crucial consideration.
The majority of current battery research is geared toward the automotive industry. Their safety standards are typically less strict than those for aviation applications, where batteries face more stressful environments.
SABERS hopes to set a new standard in aviation use by proving that safer batteries are technically possible and economically profitable.
What are the requirements for solid-state batteries? Based on an analysis of the requirements for operating a practical electric airplane, five factors were identified by SABERS: safety, energy density, and discharge rate. Package design was also considered. Scalability was another consideration.
These batteries must be safe above all. They must also be able to store and emit a lot of power efficiently. They must also be compact and well-designed.
Ultimately, SABERS is determining the feasibility of safe batteries for electrically-propelled airplanes. These innovations could open the door to a new era in power storage for future aviation.
SABERS is part of the Convergent Aeronautics Solutions Project. It provides NASA researchers with the resources necessary to assess whether their ideas for solving some of aviation’s most challenging technical problems are possible. This may be worthy of further exploration by NASA or industry.
This was selected to be a 2-year activity that began on October 1, 2019. However, interruptions in the pursuit prompted by COVID-19 could lead to an extension.