The fuel cell industry is arapidly improving field of science and technology that has the potential to oneday compete with other fuel industries. This report will discuss the variouspower sources used in the spacecrafts/probes and also outline the advancementsof batteries and fuel cell technology.Largest lithium ion batteryAs stated before, fuel cell andbattery technology are gaining popularity because of the advantages they haveover other fuel sources, lower waste and cheaper, so it was only a matter oftime for big companies to develop newer models.
One of the leading companieswhich are responsible for this rise in popularity is Tesla, which aspires forcleaner energy sources. Tesla have recently built the world’s largest lithiumion battery in South Australia. The battery cost an estimated $50millions tobuild and aims to produce half of the state’s renewable electricity by the year2025.
The battery is able to supply electrical power to 300,000 houses per hourand it is conveniently located near a wind farm with a generation capacity ofaround 315 megawatts of electrical power. Smallest lithium ion batteryThe world’s smallest battery is alsoa rechargeable lithium ion battery. It was developed by Panasonic and has adiameter of 2.5mm and a weight of 0.6g.
Due to its size, this product issuitable for wearable devices and other applications with a small drain.Despite its size, this lithium ion battery is highly reliable and even has ahigh output that is suitable for near field communications. Apollo Space missions are an importantpart of human discovery so it is vital to have a reliable source of fuel forthe spacecraft.
The Apollo’s electrical power source was a set of three fuelcells. The cells were powered by an oxygen hydrogen reaction and producedelectrical power, as well as drinkable water for the astronauts on board. Thecells each had a hydrogen and an oxygen compartment and electrodes that combineto produce 27 to 31 volts. Each pf the fuel cells comprised of 31 separatecells that were connected in series and the normal power output for individualpower plants (fuel cell) was approximately 563 to 1420 watts. An earlier model of this fuelsource was the Gemini fuel source which used liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogento combine across a proton exchange membrane, a thin permeable polymer sheetcoated with a platinum catalyst, in order to generate electrical power. VoyagerThe voyager space probe used threeradioisotope thermoelectric generators that used a thermocouple, an electricaldeice comprising of two dissimilar electrical conductors, to convert heatenergy released from the decay of radioactive material into electrical energyby the Seebeck effect.
One end of the thermocouple is located on the outside ofthe probe, in freezing temperatures, while the other end is inside of the probewith a higher temperature, this temperature difference between the two ends ofthe thermocouple generates electrical energy. Each of the generators areequipped with 24 pressed plutonium-238 oxide spheres and are capable ofgenerating around 470 watts of electrical power, although this value iscurrently an overstatement due to the power output decline over time as aresult of the 87.7-year half-life of the fuel and the deterioration of thethermocouple. Battery/fuel cell technology The current status of battery andfuel cell technology is a delicate.
The limitations of the lithium ion batteryare beginning to show and the demand for a replacement is high so alternativepower sources are being researched, mainly fuel cell technology. This sectionwill focus on the current status of the fuel cell and battery industries. BatteryThe breakthroughs made in batterytechnology, or any other field, can sometimes not be a major improvement. Casein point, the overstuffed battery cathodes. Researchers at the SLAC NationalAccelerator Lab have discovered that overstuffing a cathode with lithiumimproves the range of the battery by 30-50%. The catch here is that thisresults in the quick deterioration of the cathode itself. This is a significantdiscovery as these modified batteries can greatly improve the range of electriccars which have had an increase in popularity as of late. Another breakthrough in batterytechnology comes from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT),which has developed a battery based on “graphene balls” that has a 45% increasein power density.
This “graphene ball” battery is also capable of beingrecharged up to five times greater. The decreased recharge time and high energydensity of the battery would have normally resulted in a higher temperaturewhen recharging, however, Samsung’s new battery has a very stable temperatureof 60oC. this battery could completely change the way electrical devicesfunction if the statements made by Samsung’s researchers during the testexperiment are true. As phones become more advanced,their power energy demand increases, and people needed “fast charging”batteries, which has put a lot of pressure on the battery industry. This demandfrom smartphones and even electric cars has prompted research in fastercharging batteries.
One of the ways this fast charging can be achieved is bychanging the battery entirely. The potential replacement for the lithium ionbattery is solid-state battery. In solid-state batteries, the current flowsthrough a solid unlike lithium ion batteries in which current flows through apolymer or a liquid. In theory, these new batteries can be recharged within aminute which makes it vastly superior to current battery technology.Furthermore, the solvent that can be used in solid-state batteries is a lotcheaper and more abundant than that of current batteries as they will usewater. Fuel cellsThe growing market of electricalvehicles has resulted in fuel cell technology research being given a biggerbudget.
The principles of fuel cell technology are very promising, and the lackof breakthroughs is a result of only improving efficiency and design. Meaningthat the number of breakthroughs could be sparse as a result of attempting togreatly improve efficiency instead of rushing the research and producing littleto no improvements. The fuel cell researchers arealso focusing on changing the type of fuel the cells are able to utilise. Forexample, there have been talks of a fuel cell powered by urine. This urinepowered fuel cell is currently only capable of powering smartphones and furtherresearch on this fuel cell is being funded by Bill Gates.
This type of fuelcell is a breakthrough as it uses natural biological waste in order to bringelectrical power to areas that do not have access to electricity. The latest breakthrough in thefuel cell technology was when Hyundai, a leader in the fuel cell industry,introduced a new model, NEXO. This new car was fitted with a hydrogen fuel cellwith a higher efficiency than that of any other fuel cell currently availableon the market. The fuel cell used is also a step further than other fuel cellswhen it comes to range, the improved range was estimated to be 370 miles. Another breakthrough in fuel celltechnology is solid oxide fuel cells. This type of fuel cell effortlesslysurpassed most other fuel cells available on the market when it came toefficiency. It even has greater efficiency than combustion engines and gasturbines.
The cells dimensions are also smaller than conventional fuel cells inorder to accommodate for mass production rates and costs. This breakthrough wasa major advancement in the fuel cell industry as the cost to produce this fuelcell are much lower than usual and its high efficiency means it can meet thedemand from high drain applications. In conclusion, both fuel cell andbattery technology are currently not capable of meeting electrical demands orcommercial demands but are rapidly improving and have the potential to one dayreplace our current energy sources due to their numerous advantages. Althoughsome of the research that is being carried out in these industries is still intheir infancy, they can greatly influence the way we power electrical devicesand vehicles as well as greatly improve their efficiency.