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John O | March 2019

Japanese startup testing an experimental, solid-state battery on the moon by 2021

By Josh Perry, Editor


The Japanese lunar exploration startup ispace, inc. is partnering with NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd. of Nagoya, Japan on the HAKUTO-R program, which will bring NGK solid-state battery technology to the moon by 2021 and test its viability in space.


ispace and NGK Spark Plug will test a solid-state battery on the moon as early as 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)


According to a press release from the companies, “Testing solid-state battery technology on the Moon is aimed at supplying the burgeoning lunar industry with a stable energy storage solution. However, in order to conduct sustained lunar exploration, energy storage technology must be capable of withstanding extremely cold temperatures on the Moon, such as during the lunar night and in the permanently shadowed regions at the Moon’s poles.”


Typical lithium-ion batteries, which have liquid electrolytes, couldn’t withstand conditions on the moon. Temperatures can drop to as low as -150°C, which would freeze the liquid and cause an expansion of the electrolyte within the battery.


Currently, electrical generators are used to keep electrolytes above freezing, but those generators produce heat through dangerous radioactive isotopes. Solid-state batteries, which use a solid material as an electrolyte, are an emerging technology to produce safer and more compact batteries.


NGK Spark Plug developed an oxide-based ceramic electrolyte battery that has a wider operating temperature than conventional batteries.


According to the press release, “The choice of oxide eliminates the risk of combustion or hazardous gas leakage, and the company leverages its ceramics expertise in material and processing to improve the performance of its solid-state battery material.”


Read more about HAKUTO-R at https://ispace-inc.com/hakuto-r.

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