Friday, May 24, 2024

A new type of battery could one day help us reach Venus

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Sending a lander to Venus presents several major engineering challenges. Any rover would certainly need to breathe during entry, descent and landing on Venus because the planet’s atmosphere is so dense that the probe would settle on the surface as slowly as a stone settles in water.

The average surface temperature of Venus is 455 degrees Celsius, hot enough to melt lead.

A mixture of atmospheric chemicals such as sulfuric acid will corrode most metals. Atmospheric pressure is approximately equal to that at 1,500 meters underwater.

These extreme environmental conditions cause minerals to die; Therefore, some Venus landing missions that reached the surface – such as the Soviet Venera missions – lasted two hours or less. Future landers or rovers must have superhero-like characteristics to carry them to the surface of Earth’s evil twin.

But there’s an additional challenge to be solved: making batteries that can last longer in the hellish conditions of Venus and make the lander mission worth the effort.

NASA is working with a company called Advanced Thermal Binders Inc, (ATP), and they have developed the first battery that has been proven to last a full day at Venus temperatures, which is about 120 Earth days. .

A battery based on short duration thermal battery systems used to power smart missiles. The battery consists of 17 individual cells and uses specially designed chemicals and compounds. While the battery is still in development, engineers are encouraged that tests conducted demonstrate that these types of batteries are capable of operating in harsh environments like Venus.

Additionally, this advanced type of battery technology may provide a new energy storage device for future exploration in extreme environments throughout the solar system.

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Dr. Kevin Vipassnik, ATB project architect, said in a statement NASA press release“This latest demonstration of battery technology, with improved architecture and low self-discharge electrochemical, is a major breakthrough that many would not have thought possible.”

Batteries seem to be the only solution for powering the Venus lander. Solar panels are not viable because surface light levels are comparable to a cloudy day on Earth, and current solar panel designs cannot withstand high surface pressure. RTG requires bringing a heat source to the surface of Venus, and since heat management is already a major challenge of the mission, this method is not a good option.

But on Venus, thermal batteries can use ambient atmospheric conditions to heat a special high-temperature electrolyte that is solid and inert at standard room temperature. In addition, it can still operate without the need for thermal insulation.

NASA says this new battery approach has demonstrated unprecedented heat tolerance and laid the foundation for a new paradigm in battery technology and Venus landers.

The work on a new type of thermal battery is part of ongoing work at NASA Glenn Research Center to develop a small Venus lander called the Long Life Solar System In Situ Explorer (LISSE).

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The project uses recent advances in high-temperature systems and a new concept of operations that would allow it to operate on the surface of Venus for 60 days or more while the probe collects and transmits science data to the Venus spacecraft.

LLISSE will weigh about 10 kilograms and will carry an array of small sensors to measure wind, radiation, temperature, pressure and the abundance of key chemical elements in the atmosphere. LLISSE will be a complete system with electronics, communications and instrumentation – all of which require batteries.
ATP says it expects to demonstrate a prototype of the Venus battery system soon.

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Stuart Wagner
Stuart Wagner
"Professional coffee fan. Total beer nerd. Hardcore reader. Alcohol fanatic. Evil twitter buff. Friendly tv scholar."

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