NASA's solid-state battery research has made new progress

NASA researchers working on the Solid State Structured Batteries (SABERS) project to enhance rechargeability and safety have made progress in developing an innovative battery pack that This kind of battery pack is lighter, safer, and better performing than the batteries commonly used in electric vehicles and large electronics today. Their work aims to improve battery technology by studying the use of solid-state batteries in aviation applications, such as electric aircraft and Advanced Air Mobility.

Unlike industry-standard lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries do not contain liquids, which can cause harmful conditions such as overheating, fires, and loss of charge over time. Solid-state batteries can store more energy and perform better in extreme environments than standard lithium-ion batteries.

This illustration depicts the interior of a SABERS solid-state battery

Battery performance is a key aspect of developing electric aircraft, and these batteries must efficiently store the enormous amount of energy needed to power the aircraft while remaining lightweight. And, the batteries must release energy super fast to power electric aircraft.

To achieve this, the SABERS team has experimented with innovative materials not yet used in batteries that have made significant progress in power discharge. Over the past year, they've managed to increase the battery's discharge rate by a factor of 50, bringing researchers closer to their goal of powering large vehicles.

In addition to the new materials, the NASA team used a revolutionary battery packaging that allows it to reduce much of the battery's weight and increase the amount of energy that can be stored. Unlike ordinary batteries that connect individually packaged batteries, SABERS batteries are stacked vertically in a single case. With this design, SABERS has demonstrated solid-state batteries with energy densities of up to 500 Wh/kg, more than double that of modern EV batteries. For comparison, the current Tesla 4680 battery has a single energy density of about 300 Wh/kg and a battery pack energy density of 217 Wh/kg. The third-generation CTP Kirin battery released by CATL has an energy density of 255 Wh/kg.

"Not only does this design reduce the weight of the battery by 30 to 40 percent, but it also allows us to double the amount of energy it can store or even twice, far exceeding the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries considered state-of-the-art."

In addition, solid-state batteries do not catch fire when they fail and can still operate when damaged, making them attractive for use in aviation. SABERS researchers have tested their battery at different pressures and temperatures and found that it can operate at almost twice the temperature of a lithium-ion battery without requiring as much cooling technology. The team is continuing to test at higher temperatures and pressures, pushing the limits of the technology.

SABERS has worked with several partners, including Georgia Institute of Technology, Argonne National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, to further advance this cutting-edge research.

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