Almost 35-years ago, NASA launched the interplanetary space probes Voyager 1 & Voyager 2. Built with 1970s technology, those twin spacecrafts have done fly-by probes of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune & Uranus.
Today, Voyager 1 & 2 continues to fly beyond our Solar System & NASA still receives their radio messages. Powered by 3 MHW RTGs (Multihundred-Watt radioisotope thermoelectric generators). Each RTG (with 24 pressed plutonium oxide spheres) provided enough heat to generate approximately 157 watts of power at launch. Collectively, the RTGs supply the Voyagers with 470 watts & will allow operations to continue until between 2020 to 2025.
1970s American scientists using American ingenuity created space probes with atomic batteries that could last for 50-years. Yet, 21st century American scientists can’t come up with a battery that makes my cellphone, laptop or tablet run for more than 5-hours!
That may soon change thanks to research done at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science. Their engineers created an electrode for lithium-ion batteries which allows them to hold a charge up to 10 times greater than current batteries. This new electrode also allows batteries to recharge 10 times faster than current batteries.
If perfected, this new battery technology will not only change the future of cellphones, laptops & tablets, but also electric cars. Instead of today’s large, bulky batteries, this electrode would pave the way for smaller, more efficient, future electric car batteries.
According to Harold H. Kung, Professor at the McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science, “Even after 150 charges, which would be 1 year or more of operation, the battery is still 5 times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today.”
- How many lithium ions & the speed they travel via the electrolyte to the cathode
- How much silicon travels via the graphene sheets to the anode & cathode
Kung’s research team discovered a chemical oxidation process. It creates small holes( just 10 to 20 nanometers long) in the battery’s graphene sheets. This opens a short cut for lithium ions to get to the anode & reduces the battery’s recharge time by 10 times.
Northwestern University scientists are now focusing on how to change the cathode to create a more effective battery.
Perhaps, someone in the near future will find a new source of energy that powers human-piloted spaceships?
Maybe our human-piloted spaceships will finally catch up with Voyagers 1 & 2, then bring them back home?