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Purpose-built eVTOL battery promises 50-mile trips on a 10-minute charge

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Lithium-ion batteries do a great job of powering smartphones, laptops and even cars, but electric flight presents some unique challenges for this go-to solution for energy storage. Scientists have now demonstrated a new type of lithium-battery that leverages an innovative high-temperature charging technology to give it enough juice for meaningful aerial trips in just five to 10 minutes.

The reason using electrical powertrains and batteries for flight is so difficult as opposed to, say, powering a car down a highway, is because all of that heavy gear needs to be hauled into the air. There are limitations to how much energy a battery can store and still be light enough for the aircraft to take off, which pales in comparison to the energy density offered by traditional, kerosene-based jet fuel.

Making these batteries able to carry more energy per kilogram is one of the key challenges facing the electric aviation industry, though there are other factors to consider, too. These include fast charging times to keep the vehicles on the move and avoid inefficient battery swaps, and equipping those batteries with the ability to deliver the required amounts of power.

“Batteries for flying cars need very high energy density so that you can stay in the air,” says Chao-Yang Wang, a mechanical engineer at Pennsylvania State University and author of the study. “And they also need very high power during take-off and landing. It requires a lot of power to go vertically up and down.”

The new technology demonstrated by Wang and his colleagues actually builds on an experimental battery they developed a couple of years ago. Traditionally, lithium batteries can only operate safely within a certain temperature range. Too cold, and spikes will form on the anode in a process known as lithium plating, while too hot and the battery will quickly degrade.

The researchers were able to find a way around this with a unique design that uses a thin nickel foil attached to the negative terminal, which can rapidly heat up the battery to 60 °C (140 °F) in 30 seconds. The battery only remains at this temperature for 10 minutes, before being quickly cooled again.

This is enough to take advantage of the higher charging efficiencies offered by higher operating temperatures, but avoids degradation and lithium plating. In 2019, the scientists demonstrated this by building a prototype battery that could charge an electric car in 10 minutes to offer a range of up to 300 miles (480 km), and they’ve now tailored the technology for eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft.

The team says the new experimental batteries have the required density to power an eVTOL aircraft over a 50-mile (80-km) journey, but can be recharged in five to 10 minutes thanks to the high-temperature charging technology. Demonstrating the longevity of the design, the team also showed that this performance can be sustained over 2,000 fast-charging cycles.

“Under normal circumstances, the three attributes necessary for an eVTOL battery work against each other,” says Wang. “High energy density reduces fast charging and fast charging usually reduces the number of possible recharge cycles. But we are able to do all three in a single battery.”

The battery built by the team is not about to be dropped into a flying taxi ready for take-off. Rather, its development was a way of gauging the unique battery requirements for this type of transport, which will involve frequent take-offs and landings and a whole lot of recharging, and lay the groundwork for technologies that combine them in a feasible way.

“I hope that the work we have done in this paper will give people a solid idea that we don’t need another 20 years to finally get these vehicles,” says Wang. “I believe we have demonstrated that the eVTOL is commercially viable.”

The research was published in the journal Joule.

Source: Pennsylvania State University

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Source: https://newatlas.com/aircraft/evtol-battery-10-minute-recharge/

NEWATLAS

World’s first wooden satellite to launch later this year

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A first-of-a-kind spacecraft is set to make history later this year, but will do so using materials you could find at your local hardware store. The world’s first wooden satellite will enter orbit as a box made largely of birch plywood, which will be packed with sensors from the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the potential of the material in space.

The Woodsat is a CubeSat measuring around 10 cm (4 in) along each side, but what’s unique about this box-shaped miniature satellite is that the surface panels will be made from plywood. In fact, the only non-wooden parts featured on the outside are the corner aluminum railings that will help with its deployment once in space, along with a metal selfie stick.

The Woodsat is the brainchild of Finnish science journalist Jari Makinen, who also heads up a company called Arctic Astronauts that sells replica CubeSats for educational use and space hobbyists.

“I’ve always enjoyed making model planes, involving a lot of wooden parts,” says Makinen. “Having worked in the space education field, this got me wondering; why don’t we fly any wooden materials in space? So I had the idea first of all to fly a wooden satellite up to the stratosphere, aboard a weather balloon. That happened in 2017, with a wooden version of KitSat. That having gone well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit.”

Makinen has since secured commercial backing for a mission to space, and lined up a launch partner in Rocket Lab, which will supply its Electron booster for lift-off. ESA, meanwhile is working on a sensor suite that, along with the onboard cameras, will track the satellite’s performance in space.

The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood
The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood

ESA

One camera will be mounted to the selfie stick to capture images of the wooden surfaces, while also onboard will be an LED light, a sensor to monitor the pressure levels in the Woodsat’s cavities and a contamination sensor called a quartz crystal microbalance. This will track tiny deposits that take shape on the satellite coming from either the onboard electronics or the surface of the wood, which itself had to be treated in preparation for the mission.

“The main difference is that ordinary plywood is too humid for space uses, so we place our wood in a thermal vacuum chamber to dry it out,” explains Woodsat’s chief engineer Samuli Nyman. “Then we also perform atomic layer deposition, adding a very thin aluminum oxide layer – typically used to encapsulate electronics. This should minimize any unwanted vapors from the wood, known as ‘outgassing’ in the space field, while also protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen. We’ll also be testing other varnishes and lacquers on some sections of the wood.”

The mission planners expect the Woodsat to survive this atomic oxygen, which forms near the fringes of the atmosphere when oxygen molecules are broken down by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. They do, however, expect the wood to be darkened by this ultraviolet radiation as it orbits the planet at an altitude of around 500 to 600 km (310 to 372 miles). All going to plan, Woodsat will launch before the end of the year.

“In the end, Woodsat is simply a beautiful object in terms of traditional Nordic design and simplicity, it should be very interesting to see it in orbit,” says Makinen. “Our hope is it helps inspire people to take increased interest in satellites and the space sector as something that already touches all our lives, and is only going to get bigger in future.”

Source: ESA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/world-first-wooden-satellite-woodsat/

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NEWATLAS

World’s first wooden satellite to launch later this year

Published

on

A first-of-a-kind spacecraft is set to make history later this year, but will do so using materials you could find at your local hardware store. The world’s first wooden satellite will enter orbit as a box made largely of birch plywood, which will be packed with sensors from the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the potential of the material in space.

The Woodsat is a CubeSat measuring around 10 cm (4 in) along each side, but what’s unique about this box-shaped miniature satellite is that the surface panels will be made from plywood. In fact, the only non-wooden parts featured on the outside are the corner aluminum railings that will help with its deployment once in space, along with a metal selfie stick.

The Woodsat is the brainchild of Finnish science journalist Jari Makinen, who also heads up a company called Arctic Astronauts that sells replica CubeSats for educational use and space hobbyists.

“I’ve always enjoyed making model planes, involving a lot of wooden parts,” says Makinen. “Having worked in the space education field, this got me wondering; why don’t we fly any wooden materials in space? So I had the idea first of all to fly a wooden satellite up to the stratosphere, aboard a weather balloon. That happened in 2017, with a wooden version of KitSat. That having gone well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit.”

Makinen has since secured commercial backing for a mission to space, and lined up a launch partner in Rocket Lab, which will supply its Electron booster for lift-off. ESA, meanwhile is working on a sensor suite that, along with the onboard cameras, will track the satellite’s performance in space.

The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood
The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood

ESA

One camera will be mounted to the selfie stick to capture images of the wooden surfaces, while also onboard will be an LED light, a sensor to monitor the pressure levels in the Woodsat’s cavities and a contamination sensor called a quartz crystal microbalance. This will track tiny deposits that take shape on the satellite coming from either the onboard electronics or the surface of the wood, which itself had to be treated in preparation for the mission.

“The main difference is that ordinary plywood is too humid for space uses, so we place our wood in a thermal vacuum chamber to dry it out,” explains Woodsat’s chief engineer Samuli Nyman. “Then we also perform atomic layer deposition, adding a very thin aluminum oxide layer – typically used to encapsulate electronics. This should minimize any unwanted vapors from the wood, known as ‘outgassing’ in the space field, while also protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen. We’ll also be testing other varnishes and lacquers on some sections of the wood.”

The mission planners expect the Woodsat to survive this atomic oxygen, which forms near the fringes of the atmosphere when oxygen molecules are broken down by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. They do, however, expect the wood to be darkened by this ultraviolet radiation as it orbits the planet at an altitude of around 500 to 600 km (310 to 372 miles). All going to plan, Woodsat will launch before the end of the year.

“In the end, Woodsat is simply a beautiful object in terms of traditional Nordic design and simplicity, it should be very interesting to see it in orbit,” says Makinen. “Our hope is it helps inspire people to take increased interest in satellites and the space sector as something that already touches all our lives, and is only going to get bigger in future.”

Source: ESA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/world-first-wooden-satellite-woodsat/

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NEWATLAS

World’s first wooden satellite to launch later this year

Published

on

A first-of-a-kind spacecraft is set to make history later this year, but will do so using materials you could find at your local hardware store. The world’s first wooden satellite will enter orbit as a box made largely of birch plywood, which will be packed with sensors from the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the potential of the material in space.

The Woodsat is a CubeSat measuring around 10 cm (4 in) along each side, but what’s unique about this box-shaped miniature satellite is that the surface panels will be made from plywood. In fact, the only non-wooden parts featured on the outside are the corner aluminum railings that will help with its deployment once in space, along with a metal selfie stick.

The Woodsat is the brainchild of Finnish science journalist Jari Makinen, who also heads up a company called Arctic Astronauts that sells replica CubeSats for educational use and space hobbyists.

“I’ve always enjoyed making model planes, involving a lot of wooden parts,” says Makinen. “Having worked in the space education field, this got me wondering; why don’t we fly any wooden materials in space? So I had the idea first of all to fly a wooden satellite up to the stratosphere, aboard a weather balloon. That happened in 2017, with a wooden version of KitSat. That having gone well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit.”

Makinen has since secured commercial backing for a mission to space, and lined up a launch partner in Rocket Lab, which will supply its Electron booster for lift-off. ESA, meanwhile is working on a sensor suite that, along with the onboard cameras, will track the satellite’s performance in space.

The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood
The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood

ESA

One camera will be mounted to the selfie stick to capture images of the wooden surfaces, while also onboard will be an LED light, a sensor to monitor the pressure levels in the Woodsat’s cavities and a contamination sensor called a quartz crystal microbalance. This will track tiny deposits that take shape on the satellite coming from either the onboard electronics or the surface of the wood, which itself had to be treated in preparation for the mission.

“The main difference is that ordinary plywood is too humid for space uses, so we place our wood in a thermal vacuum chamber to dry it out,” explains Woodsat’s chief engineer Samuli Nyman. “Then we also perform atomic layer deposition, adding a very thin aluminum oxide layer – typically used to encapsulate electronics. This should minimize any unwanted vapors from the wood, known as ‘outgassing’ in the space field, while also protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen. We’ll also be testing other varnishes and lacquers on some sections of the wood.”

The mission planners expect the Woodsat to survive this atomic oxygen, which forms near the fringes of the atmosphere when oxygen molecules are broken down by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. They do, however, expect the wood to be darkened by this ultraviolet radiation as it orbits the planet at an altitude of around 500 to 600 km (310 to 372 miles). All going to plan, Woodsat will launch before the end of the year.

“In the end, Woodsat is simply a beautiful object in terms of traditional Nordic design and simplicity, it should be very interesting to see it in orbit,” says Makinen. “Our hope is it helps inspire people to take increased interest in satellites and the space sector as something that already touches all our lives, and is only going to get bigger in future.”

Source: ESA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/world-first-wooden-satellite-woodsat/

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Liquid metal mirrors switch reflectivity on and off with a zap

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Engineers have found a way to make liquid metals switch between reflective surfaces or those that scatter light. The transition only requires a small zap of electricity and could be used to make mirrors that can be switched on or off.

Liquid metals conduct electricity and interact with heat and light in the same ways as their solid forms, but the added fluidity opens up a range of new devices that weren’t previously possible. In recent years the slippery shiny stuff has been used to make morphing electronics, stretchable wires, and better batteries.

And now, liquid metals might be able to add switchable reflectivity to their repertoire. Researchers from Kyushu University and North Carolina State University found that changing the voltage of electricity applied to liquid metal can make its surface change from reflective to scattering.

The electricity is oxidizing the metal, which causes its volume to change. That in turn produces a series of tiny “scratches” to appear on the surface, scattering the light randomly. To undo the changes and return the liquid metal to a reflective state, the magnitude of the voltage can be switched from negative to positive.

The switching can be done with a low voltage of just 1.4 V, on par with that used to power an LED. It can be done at room temperature and pressure too, all of which helps make it potentially useful for commercial applications, such as new electronic and optical components.

“In the immediate future this technology could be used to create tools for entertainment and artistic expression that have never been available before,” says Yuji Oki, lead researcher on the study. “With more development, it might be possible to expand this technology into something that works much like 3D printing for producing electronically controlled optics made of liquid metals. This could allow the optics used in light-based health testing devices to be easily and inexpensively fabricated in areas of the world that lack medical laboratory facilities.”

The research was published in the journal Optical Materials Express. The switching can be seen in action in the video below.

Dynamic Control of Reflective/Diffusive Optical Surfaces on Liquid Metal

Source: The Optical Society

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Source: https://newatlas.com/materials/liquid-metal-mirrors-reflectivity-switch/

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