For years, NASA has dedicated its research efforts to battery-powered flight through the Solid-state Architecture Batteries for Enhanced Rechargeability and Safety (SABERS) program. Rocco Viggiano, the principal investigator for SABERS at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, expressed in a press release last year that the program has consistently surpassed its objectives. He emphasized that they are approaching a new frontier in battery research with immense potential beyond the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries. NASA’s sulphur-selenium prototype battery boasts an energy density of 500Wh/kg, effectively doubling that of conventional lithium-ion batteries.

Aircrafts demand substantial power for take-off, posing a challenge for solid-state batteries, which historically couldn’t discharge their stored power as rapidly as traditional lithium-ion batteries. However, through collaborative efforts with partners at Georgia Tech, the SABERS researchers have made significant progress. They managed to enhance the discharge rate of their solid-state batteries, achieving a ten-fold increase, initially, followed by another five-fold improvement.

Advantages of the battery

The innovations made by the SABERS team resulted in a weight reduction of up to 40% for the battery. By allowing sulphur-selenium battery cells to be stacked without individual casings, more energy can be stored within a given space—a critical advantage when integrating batteries into aircraft structures. Moreover, eliminating individual casings leads to smaller and lighter cooling systems for the cells, contributing to overall weight savings.

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