NASA has awarded an early career grant to Kelsey Hatzell to help develop new rechargeable batteries for solar powered orbital missions and missions to the surface of Mars.
Hatzell, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center, specializes in understanding interfaces between materials, a field that has direct applications to battery technology. In recent work, Hatzell’s team has uncovered paths to more practical manufacturing of solid state batteries. For the NASA project, Hatzell will explore the science behind the temperature tolerance of lithium ion batteries. Currently, Hatzell said, the batteries’ tolerance ranges roughly from -20 degrees to 40 degrees Celsius (about -4 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.) Temperatures on Mars range well beyond this with a maximum of 21 degrees and a minimum of -140 degrees Celsius (70 degrees to -220 degrees Fahrenheit). For space missions, the temperature variation can be even more extreme.
NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants Program awards funds to early career researchers to support work examining new approaches supporting science, space travel and exploration.