Japan Proved All-Solid-State Lithium-Ion Batteries Work in the Vacuum of Space

JAXA successfully tests solid-state batteries on the ISS 5 photos
Photo: JAXA
All-solid-state lithium-ion battery on-orbit experimentAll-solid-state lithium-ion battery equipmentExperiment configuration (left), battery cell (right)External view of location of all-solid-state battery
Many of the hardware we humans have deployed in space and on neighboring pieces of rock get their power from organic electrolyte solution-based lithium-ion batteries. That may soon change, if Japanese space agency JAXA and local industrial giant Hitachi Zosen have their way.
The two organizations have been working ever since 2016 on developing all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries that could be deployed in space. Recently, we were told that the first major hurdle in the development process had been overcome.

More to the point, all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries were successfully charged and discharged in the Japanese Kibo module up there on the International Space Station (ISS), proving, for the first time in the history of space exploration, that the concept could work.

According to JAXA, the mission was conducted back in March, but for some reason it was only made public last month. The battery was fitted in the Small Payload Support Equipment on the Kibo’s Exposed Facility - that’s because the new tech is supposed to be installed on equipment generally exposed to the harsh conditions of space.

The hardware deployed in the experiment weighed just 25 grams, and had a capacity of 140mAh (when connected in parallel with 15 cells, power supply climbs to 2.1Ah). It was designed to have operating temperatures between -40? to 120? (-40 to 248 Fahrenheit).

The Hitachi batteries are made of flame-retardant materials, including the solid electrolyte, and use no liquids. They’re also “configured with microminiaturized minimized volatile components designed to prevent expansion even under vacuum.”

Up next for the project come new experiments, aimed at finding more about characteristics of charge and discharge operation, and decline in battery capacity under space conditions. At the time of writing, there is no info on when the new solution could be implemented for real in hardware meant to operate in exposed space.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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