Space and cars go together like bacon and peanut butter (try it before you come for me), and a new partnership between NASA and Nissan announced last week will hopefully benefit travellers on both sides of the atmosphere.
Nissan announced a new prototype factory in the Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan on Friday. Called the Nissan Research Centre, its goal is to bring laminated all-solid-state battery cells to market by 2028 using a cutting edge science called computational materials science. Researchers will fill a supercomputer with tons of data on all sort of materials and allow the computer to crunch the numbers on what types of material combinations will work best for certain conditions. NASA is very interested in this technology as well as the batteries that might come from it. As Corporate Vice President Kazuhiro Doi told reporters, according to the Associated Press: “Both NASA and Nissan need the same kind of battery,” he said.
There are a ton of advantages to the newly developed batteries, which will be smaller, more stable and able to charge in minutes, rather than hours. There are other benefits, as Ars Technica points out:
The Nissan-NASA partnership, which also involves researchers from the University of California, San Diego, is likely looking beyond those first cells. While today’s solid-state battery designs change some fundamental parts of lithium-ion batteries — mostly by doing away with flammable liquid electrolytes — they largely leave others in place, including the use of rare or expensive metals like cobalt and nickel. By eliminating such metals, future batteries would not only be cheaper but also have potentially cleaner and more ethical supply chains. Cobalt mining, for example, is rife with human rights abuses and environmental hazards.
According to the Associated Press, the partners said they’ll be creating an “original material informatics platform” consisting of a large database of materials that can be mixed and matched to determine their potential properties.
Solid state batteries definitely seem to be the way of the future. Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford and GM are all developing the technology, though some automakers, like Porsche, are also looking to efuels to keep gas-powered cars on the road.
NASA has partnered with automakers before. GM developed the Lunar Rover that will be making its way back to the Moon in a few years. Chrysler’s Redstone missiles, an early ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear or otherwise payload over 322 km, were used in the early days of the space program. Alan Shepard, the first American in space, got up there on a Chrysler Redstone missile.