KULR Gets The Green Light To Build 3D Battery Systems for NASA Space ApplicationsSeptember 15, 2020 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.
KULR Technology has been awarded by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to create 3D printed battery systems for manned and robotic space applications.
KULR Technology Group, Inc. develops, manufactures, and licenses next-generation carbon fiber thermal management technologies for batteries and electronic systems.
The company is no stranger to space and defense projects, most recently having its power technology search for life on Mars.
Lithium batteries can become destructive if placed in harsh environmental conditions. Image used courtesy of KULR Technology Group.
KULR has demonstrated success in several space operations with NASA. In 2019, KULR provided NASA with a solution on how to protect laptop computer battery packs aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The newest space endeavor will involve KULR creating 3D printed battery systems and providing NASA astronauts with the resources on how to repair and improve these systems while in orbit.
KULR’s Solutions for Thermal Runaway
Lithium batteries are regulated as hazardous material especially during any means of transportation. One of the reasons it can create dangerous situations is the possibility of thermal runaway occurring. A battery supply that experiences thermal runaway has current flowing through the cell or battery, overcharges which cause the cell temperature to rise, increasing the current with a further rise in temperature.
For previous space projects, KULR designed storage bags, each containing two laptop battery packs. The battery storage was able to decrease in temperature to prevent batteries close to entering a state of thermal runaway. This reliable packaging solution is KULR’s passive propagation resistant (PPR) technology for lithium batteries. KULR has also developed HYDRA, a heat sink that is used during normal lithium-ion battery pack operation to regulate the device temperature and prevent thermal runaway from occurring.
KULR’s HYDRA is a vaporizing thermal capacitor that provides passive prevention of thermal runaway in lithium-ion battery packs. Image used courtesy of KULR Technology Group.
KULR’s PPR along with internal short circuit (ISC) technologies will be used to develop 3D printed battery systems that meet the JSC 20793 Revision D safety standard created by NASA for crewed space missions. This guided KULR designers to build battery systems that would be used in the enclosed environments of a crewed space vehicle and used in unpressurized spaces.
KULR’s ISC technology allows researchers to predict battery cell failure, such as true internal short circuit current, and then analyze the causes behind them in order to build safer batteries.
KULR’s Process To Be Replicated by NASA Astronauts In Space
Only a handful of groups are working to adopt 3D printing for space applications. The ability to 3D print in space has numerous advantages such as safety, cost, and allowing for extended missions. The footprint of these 3D printed battery systems will also play an advantaged role by shrinking down cargo capacity for other valuable items and equipment.
NASA’s Human Landing System Cross Program Analysis Coordinator, Brandon Lewis discussed how NASA astronauts will be able to replicate KULR’s process to improve or repair battery systems in space.
“Through our partnership with KULR, we will now have the incredible ability to build space-optimized battery pack systems in-orbit,” Lewis said.
KULR’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Dr. Timothy Knowles shared his thoughts on the impact of this new project saying, “3D printing of KULR’s PPR battery design will help lower the costs associated with battery pack transportation for the upcoming Artemis missions, where NASA will build sustainable elements on and around the moon in preparation for an eventual human mission to Mars.”