Since almost a decade, supercapacitors (SC) were identified as promising high-power sources as they can bridge the gap between capacitors and batteries. SC have been found to be potentially attractive for several space power applications. ESA has conducted several activities for developing supercapacitors for space applications. In this paper, an overview of identified space applications for SC will be provided, the conclusions of recent development activities funded and led by ESA will be shared. Finally, the challenges of providing a high reliable space solution will be listed as well.
The paper was presented by Joaquín José Jiménez Carreira, HE Space Operations B.V. for ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands at the 3rd PCNS 7-10th September 2021, Milano, Italy as paper No.2.4.
CHALLENGES TO OVERCOME
CDC SpaceCaps & SpaceCap Modules
- A thorough rethink of the SpaceCap design, manufacturing and assembly process should be taken in future R&D activities in order to optimise the performance of the SpaceCap.
- To be able to produce and manufacture a lighter design in mass of the SpaceCap Module in the future, with tighter dimension tolerances.
Graphene-based materials as electrodes for supercapacitors
- The major limitation of the growth method towards electrodes for supercapacitors was the obtained morphology of graphene flakes. Possible solutions might be to produce electrodes with higher specific area or a highly structured substrate. The improvement of the performance of supercapacitors can also go in the direction of using the pseudo-capacitance effect.
- Further development is necessary to optimize the operation of the produced pouch cells where the identical combination of electrolyte and pouch cell materials in general with the produced electrodes should be studied.
De-risk assessment of a graphene enabled supercapacitors cell (GRACE)
- Further supercapacitor cell design and manufacturing process optimization is needed in order to maximize the cell performance.
- The final cell design incorporating the graphene electrodes must maintain very low internal resistance and exhibit an energy density higher than 10 Wh/kg.
- Design and development of a single supercapacitor bank module that incorporates the developed cells is needed.
- A graphene-based supercapacitor bank breadboard should be manufactured and initially tested to prove the technology capabilities, incorporating appropriate Management Systems to ensure controlled and safe operation.
Generic space qualification of 10F Nesscap supercapacitors
- R&T activities are deemed necessary in order to improve power density and high temperature lifetime.
- Future approval and publication of the related ESCC generic and detail specifications is needed.
Supercapacitors for launcher applications
- Cell material and electrolytes enhancement is required in order to improve the electrochemical performances.
- Leak tightness under vacuum needs to be improved.
- Improvement of the cell characterization process is indispensable.
- The BOSC must be validated including 12 functional cells in order to reach an operating voltage of 32V.
- Vibration tests need to be conducted on the BOSC.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
R&D activities to develop supercapacitors lead by ESA have demonstrated a number of achievements and improvements in the developing, manufacturing and qualification for space applications.
Two more R&D activities on supercapacitors are intended to be published soon:
- Optimization and space qualification of CDC supercapacitor cells and supercapacitor module.
- Graphene enabled supercapacitors cell optimisation and bank system.
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