NASA AQUIFER PROJECT
Design and Development of Nano-electro Fuel Batteries and Rim-driven Motors for Electrified Aircraft Applications
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Convergent Aeronautics Solutions project seeks to determine feasibility of emerging technologies in aeronautics. The Aqueous, QUick-Charging Battery Integration For Electric flight Research study pursued the feasibility of nano-electro fuel and rim-driven motor technologies integrated together for aircraft implementation. Development of the NEF technology was in partnership with Influit Energy, LLC (Chicago, Illinois). A rim-driven motor, designed by the project team, sized to represent one of 24 motors in the propulsion system of the tandem electric super-short takeoff and landing aircraft is discussed. The development of this electric super-short takeoff and landing concept was in partnership with The Boeing Company (Chicago, Illinois). The integrated system design of the nano-electro fuel and rim-driven motor technologies within the wing section was in partnership with Empirical Systems Aerospace, Inc. (ESAero) (San Luis Obispo, California). The feasibility benchmark for the nano-electro fuel battery was to attain 100 mA/cm2 within two years, a 50-fold increase over the demonstrated cell performance before the Convergent Aeronautics Solutions Aqueous, QUick-Charging Battery Integration For Electric flight Research activity. The team achieved 85 mA/cm2 in the nano-electro fuel flow cell at the end of the two years. The Aqueous, QUick-Charging Battery Integration For Electric flight Research project team determined the technology to be both inflammable and nonexplosive (unless multiple, simultaneous system failures occur) which would provide a safer alternative to conventional lithium-ion based battery systems.
NASA INCUBATION CONTRACT
Rapid Recharger and Large Recharging System for Urban Air Mobility
Influit Energy is funded by NASA to develop, test, and integrate the NEF battery and rapid recharger into the future of urban air mobility solutions. Between batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, and gasoline, batteries prove to be the most energy efficient. However, lithium ion batteries, the current battery of choice for most EVs on the market, come with drawbacks. Lithium ion ignites when it’s in contact with air or water. Any accident with lithium ion can produce toxic clouds of extremely hazardous and caustic lithium hydroxide in water vapor which will etch lung tissue and surrounding buildings. This danger is why the U.S. military still relies on lead acid batteries. Lithium itself and by extension its supply chain is not green or secure. Lithium mining is a dirty business that primarily happens outside the US. Environmentalists and the Department of Defense dislike this supply chain, and for good reason. Lithium ion also can’t reath a sufficient energy density for flight. Lithium ion can reach energy densities sufficient for small urban mobility vehicles, but it cannot power large, wide-body aircraft. Large-body commercial aviation needs a better battery. Currently, electrical grids can’t scale with the projected growth of batteries. The grid was not built to handle the mass adoption of battery-powered transport. More powerful and faster-charging conventional batteries (solid state) make this worse.
Influit Energy’s NEF flow battery matches lithium ion batteries in efficiency while also solving their shortcomings. The cost of raw materials in an Influit battery is about half the cost of the materials in a similar lithium ion battery. Influit batteries will also have the most environmentally friendly and secure battery supply chain in the world since our materials don’t rely on foreign mining. NEF batteries are much safer because they don’t ignite when they encounter air or water, making them more suitable for aviation and military applications. In solid batteries the active materials are fixed within a cell which also fixes the ratio of power-to-energy storage. In flow batteries the active materials are in liquid form and stored outside the cell stack. Flow batteries (including NEF) retain a distinct design advantage over conventional batteries because the power is then defined by the stack and energy storage defined by the tanks which can be sized independently. Our battery therefore allows for conformal system designs because of the independent design space of the power stack and fluid location. When scaled-up enough, Influit’s battery becomes an alternative grid.
The NEF concept could reduce or retire the in-flight fire and explosion hazards of traditional battery and fuel cell systems. This will allow us to achieve the ultimate goal of a closed loop energy cycle. The rapid recharger would allow for off-grid recharging for aircraft. Via a Ford F-150 pickup truck, the rapid recharger is transportable to recharge awaiting electric aircraft.
In the previous project phase the NASA Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS) Aqueous, QUick-charging battery Integration For Electric flight Research (AQUIFER) investigated NEF and rim-driven motor (RDM) technologies, integrated together in a wing section in order to reduce or retire the flight fire and explosion hazards associated with the battery system, improve the acoustic signature of the electric motors, and co-locate these technologies to reduce cable lengths and electromagnetic interference (EMI) effects.