The new NASA Vision for Space Exploration calls for the development of reliable, efficient, compact power sources, which are of critical importance in support of crewed missions to the Moon for extended periods of time, and to eventually send crewed missions to Mars with a real chance of survival and return.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells address the NASA priority of developing new, efficient, compact, portable, and environmentally friendly energy sources. Achieving a high degree of efficiency and durability that meets the needs and specifications of the Space Exploration Program, is however, a task yet to be accomplished.
Our approach to making significant progress in this area consists in developing novel nanostructured electrochemical materials, understanding their electrochemical behavior under actual device operating conditions, and utilizing this knowledge to enhance their electrochemical properties.
The University of Puerto Rico will undertake an integrated experimental/theoretical research program to address functional issues relevant to the design, modeling, fabrication, and characterization of nanoscale materials suitable for enhanced rechargeable lithium ion batteries and fuel cells. Medullar to this program is the development of proof-of-concept and up scaled lithium battery and fuel cell prototypes in collaboration with the Electrochemistry Brach at NASA Glenn Research Center.
The research will focus on applied issues of nanostructured cathode, anode, and polymer electrolyte materials relevant for their usage in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells. The research efforts are aimed at finding the best-performing, robust, most economical, and environmentally friendly nanostructured anode-electrolyte-cathode systems, which would also yield a significant gain in charge capability, along with higher cycleability with stability under harsh conditions. The proposed research is currently a forefront scientific field and our main objective is advancing its technological realization in the context of Space Exploration.
The strong feasibility of this project arises from its multidisciplinary approach and synergistic collaboration with the pertinent device developers at Glenn Research Center from the early stages of nano material selection and synthesis, through prototype testing, until accomplishing a Technology Readiness Level appropriate for technology transferring to NASA scientists and engineers for further refinement.