Innovative Cathode for High Performance and Robust Lithium-Ion Battery for Space Applications

Principal Investigator
Daniel Choi
Mechanical Engineering
Focus Area
Innovative Cathode for High Performance and Robust Lithium-Ion Battery for Space Applications

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are, without a doubt, the most popular batteries to power everyday mobile devices. Since their introduction to the market in the early 1990s, significant research efforts have been directed toward improving lithium-ion batteries’ performance in terms of developing better cathode electrodes, anode electrodes, electrolytes, and separators to match the demand of today’s consumers. Nevertheless, substantial improvements are still needed, especially in high-tech space applications that face a particularly tough life. Batteries for space must bring added assurances of reliability, durability, and performance. The development of a cathode material requires special attention. It directly affects the capacity and the energy ratings of the battery. Additionally, the cathode material accounts for 40% of the total cost of the battery. Therefore, the cathode material offers the major potential for the enhancement of the battery performance and efficiency, especially for a space power subsystem.

Among all cathode materials, lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) is of interest to space energy storage requirements due to its several inherent safety characteristics; namely, protection against overheating, charging, and discharging. Another feature is that they offer long cycle life and calendar life; thus, they will last through thousands of charge/discharge cycles. Moreover, they have high current and peak-power ratings, provide high charge levels and do not suffer from capacity loss when operated at elevated temperatures. An important edge of LiFePO4 chemistry is that it can deliver full power until the battery is fully discharged.

Despite the above discussed advantages, LiFePO4 suffers from poor electrical conductivity. A valuable solution to this problem is to downsize the LiFePO4 particles to the nanoscale and coating it with conductive materials such as graphite, carbon black, or carbon nanotubes. A careful evaluation of the reported approaches to improve the electrical conductivity of LiFePO4 particles reveals that they are limited when it comes to the scalability of the fabrication process. In this work, we intend to develop cost-effective, scalable, and novel nanostructed LiFePO4 cathode electrodes for lithium-ion batteries and investigate the performance of the newly developed electrode with the aim of achieving high specific capacity, high power, and excellent stability at wide temperature range (-30 to +60C). The approach we are proposing (tape-casting and so-gel) is yet to be fully exploited in energy storage devices.

The ultimate goal is to develop a prototype of a battery cell and present a demo to show the improvement of energy and power of the battery cell compared to a heritage battery cell. Moreover, we will produce a battery cell that encompasses all of Masdar Institute of Khalifa University of Science and Technoloigy’s battery technologies. Finally, the fully developed battery will be evaluated under space simulated environment to show its potential for space applications.

The proposed project is fully aligned with the Space Agency’s ST&I objectives and it falls under Level 1 ST&I area of “space power and energy storage” and level 2 “energy storage.” The project is aimed at developing enabling technologies for promising mission and system concept; in particular, an in-house prototype of lithium-ion battery. The project implementation has very high feasibility and the hardware prototyping can be done given the available expertise and facilities at Masdar Institute. The project can potentially result in a commercially viable lithium-ion battery technology for spacecrafts/satellites.

Innovative Cathode for High Performance and Robust Lithium-Ion Battery for Space Applications