Ultracapacitors are now being applied to satellite technology and space travel. The aerospace industry is particularly demanding and requires extremely low-weight, high-performance technologies that can tolerate large temperature variations and exposure to radiation. Power-to-weight ratio is particularly important as the cost of sending 1 pound to space is around €9000 and reducing overall weight, and therefore cost, is a key target for the industry. Ultracapacitors offer a very high power-to-weight ratio, are robust under challenging conditions and offer long lifespan, making them ideally suited to the aerospace industry.
While spacecraft harvest their energy with solar cells, they do have to spend some of the time on the “night side” where they rely on stored energy. This function is currently undertaken by lithium-ion batteries. Although batteries can store more energy than ultracapacitors, they are slow to charge and discharge, lose 30% of their energy through heat alone and require frequent replacement. Ultracapacitors can charge almost instantly and deliver significantly more power for weight compared to batteries. Using ultracapacitors for tasks such as adjusting antennae and moving solar arrays will considerably reduce the amount of weight and room required for energy storage.
“Ultracapacitor technology has the potential to increase mission safety while reducing mission costs. SpaceCap cells will allow us to package a large amount of power into a very small package, creating opportunities for new applications.”
Bernard Zufferey, PECS Manager, European Space Agency