Future NASA science missions require rechargeable batteries that can operate over a wide temperature range, including the ability to charge and discharge at very low temperature conditions. For example, Mars and small body surface mission concepts which include robotic landers, rovers, and aerial vehicles, require rechargeable batteries capable of operating down to -40°C conditions. State-of-the-art (SOA) lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have been adapted to improve low temperature operation, but their performance is still severely limited at temperatures below -20°C. In addition, the gravimetric energy density of SOA LIB cells qualified for NASA missions is low (~100-150 Wh/kg), with this value further reduced by 20-50% at the battery pack level. Battery performance at low temperature is limited by a reduction in Li-ion conductivity of the liquid electrolyte and an increase in Li-ion transport resistance through the solid electrolyte interface and the electrode/electrolyte interface. In Phase I, Giner, Inc., will develop customized electrolytes that enables reliable and efficient operation of high energy density lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries at low temperature conditions down to -40°C. The Li-S battery is one of the most promising technologies for future NASA missions because of its high theoretical gravimetric energy density of 2500 Wh/kg, which is up to 5 times higher than the theoretical value of SOA commercial LIB cells. A successfully developed Li-S battery capable of low temperature operation would offer a significant performance advantage over current SOA lithium-ion batteries in NASA mission applications.
The technology will enable use of a high energy density Li-S battery that can operate at low temperatures down to -40°C for various NASA programs including robotic landers, rovers, aerial vehicles for exploring Mars, the Moon, and the outer planets. Other NASA applications include batteries for extravehicular activities (e.g., power for life support, communications, power tools, glove heaters, lights and other devices), satellites and electrified vehicle propulsion (EAP) (e.g., power for urban air mobility, thin haul and short haul aircraft).
This technology will enable commercialization of high energy density and low temperature tolerant Li-S batteries for electric vehicles, unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles, military aircraft and satellites, large-scale grid energy storage, and consumer electronics.