The This report will discuss the various power sources

The fuel cell
industry is a rapidly improving field of science and technology that has the
potential to one day compete with other fuel industries. This report will
discuss the various power sources used in the spacecrafts/probes and also
outline the advancements of batteries and fuel cell technology.

Largest lithium ion battery

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As stated
before, fuel cell and battery technology are gaining popularity because of the
advantages they have over other fuel sources, lower waste and cheaper, so it
was only a matter of time for big companies to develop newer models. One of the
leading companies which are responsible for this rise in popularity is Tesla,
which aspires for cleaner energy sources. Tesla have recently built the world’s
largest lithium ion battery in South Australia. The battery cost an estimated
$50millions to build and aims to produce half of the state’s renewable
electricity by the year 2025. The battery is able to supply electrical power to
300,000 houses per hour and it is conveniently located near a wind farm with a
generation capacity of around 315 megawatts of electrical power.

Smallest lithium ion battery

The world’s
smallest battery is also a rechargeable lithium ion battery. It was developed
by Panasonic and has a diameter of 2.5mm and a weight of 0.6g. Due to its size,
this product is suitable for wearable devices and other applications with a
small drain. Despite its size, this lithium ion battery is highly reliable and
even has a high output that is suitable for near field communications.

Apollo

Space missions
are an important part of human discovery so it is vital to have a reliable
source of fuel for the spacecraft. The Apollo’s electrical power source was a
set of three fuel cells. The cells were powered by an oxygen hydrogen reaction
and produced electrical power, as well as drinkable water for the astronauts on
board. The cells each had a hydrogen and an oxygen compartment and electrodes that
combine to produce 27 to 31 volts. Each pf the fuel cells comprised of 31
separate cells that were connected in series and the normal power output for
individual power plants (fuel cell) was approximately 563 to 1420 watts.

An earlier model
of this fuel source was the Gemini fuel source which used liquid oxygen and
liquid hydrogen to combine across a proton exchange membrane, a thin permeable
polymer sheet coated with a platinum catalyst, in order to generate electrical
power.

Voyager

The voyager space
probe used three radioisotope thermoelectric generators that used a
thermocouple, an electrical deice comprising of two dissimilar electrical
conductors, to convert heat energy released from the decay of radioactive
material into electrical energy by the Seebeck effect. One end of the
thermocouple is located on the outside of the probe, in freezing temperatures,
while the other end is inside of the probe with a higher temperature, this
temperature difference between the two ends of the thermocouple generates
electrical energy. Each of the generators are equipped with 24 pressed
plutonium-238 oxide spheres and are capable of generating around 470 watts of
electrical power, although this value is currently an overstatement due to the
power output decline over time as a result of the 87.7-year half-life of the
fuel and the deterioration of the thermocouple.

Battery/fuel cell technology

The current
status of battery and fuel cell technology is a delicate. The limitations of
the lithium ion battery are beginning to show and the demand for a replacement
is high so alternative power sources are being researched, mainly fuel cell
technology. This section will focus on the current status of the fuel cell and
battery industries.

Battery

The
breakthroughs made in battery technology, or any other field, can sometimes not
be a major improvement. Case in point, the overstuffed battery cathodes.
Researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Lab have discovered that
overstuffing a cathode with lithium improves the range of the battery by
30-50%. The catch here is that this results in the quick deterioration of the
cathode itself. This is a significant discovery as these modified batteries can
greatly improve the range of electric cars which have had an increase in
popularity as of late.  

Another
breakthrough in battery technology comes from the Samsung Advanced Institute of
Technology (SAIT), which has developed a battery based on “graphene balls” that
has a 45% increase in power density. This “graphene ball” battery is also
capable of being recharged up to five times greater. The decreased recharge
time and high energy density of the battery would have normally resulted in a
higher temperature when recharging, however, Samsung’s new battery has a very stable
temperature of 60oC. this battery could completely change the way
electrical devices function if the statements made by Samsung’s researchers
during the test experiment are true.      

As phones become
more advanced, their power energy demand increases, and people needed “fast
charging” batteries, which has put a lot of pressure on the battery industry. This
demand from smartphones and even electric cars has prompted research in faster
charging batteries. One of the ways this fast charging can be achieved is by
changing the battery entirely. The potential replacement for the lithium ion
battery is solid-state battery. In solid-state batteries, the current flows
through a solid unlike lithium ion batteries in which current flows through a
polymer or a liquid. In theory, these new batteries can be recharged within a
minute which makes it vastly superior to current battery technology.
Furthermore, the solvent that can be used in solid-state batteries is a lot
cheaper and more abundant than that of current batteries as they will use
water.

Fuel cells

The growing
market of electrical vehicles has resulted in fuel cell technology research
being given a bigger budget. The principles of fuel cell technology are very
promising, and the lack of breakthroughs is a result of only improving
efficiency and design. Meaning that the number of breakthroughs could be sparse
as a result of attempting to greatly improve efficiency instead of rushing the
research and producing little to no improvements.

The fuel cell
researchers are also focusing on changing the type of fuel the cells are able
to utilise. For example, there have been talks of a fuel cell powered by urine.
This urine powered fuel cell is currently only capable of powering smartphones
and further research on this fuel cell is being funded by Bill Gates. This type
of fuel cell is a breakthrough as it uses natural biological waste in order to
bring electrical power to areas that do not have access to electricity.

The latest
breakthrough in the fuel cell technology was when Hyundai, a leader in the fuel
cell industry, introduced a new model, NEXO. This new car was fitted with a
hydrogen fuel cell with a higher efficiency than that of any other fuel cell
currently available on the market. The fuel cell used is also a step further
than other fuel cells when it comes to range, the improved range was estimated
to be 370 miles.

Another breakthrough
in fuel cell technology is solid oxide fuel cells. This type of fuel cell
effortlessly surpassed most other fuel cells available on the market when it
came to efficiency. It even has greater efficiency than combustion engines and
gas turbines. The cells dimensions are also smaller than conventional fuel
cells in order to accommodate for mass production rates and costs. This
breakthrough was a major advancement in the fuel cell industry as the cost to
produce this fuel cell are much lower than usual and its high efficiency means
it can meet the demand from high drain applications.

In conclusion,
both fuel cell and battery technology are currently not capable of meeting
electrical demands or commercial demands but are rapidly improving and have the
potential to one day replace our current energy sources due to their numerous
advantages. Although some of the research that is being carried out in these
industries is still in their infancy, they can greatly influence the way we
power electrical devices and vehicles as well as greatly improve their
efficiency.  

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