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OXIS and Hyperdrive in project to develop battery for Antarctic applications

UK companies Hyperdrive Innovation and OXIS Energy are collaborating to develop an Ultra-Low Temperature Battery, which should allow the British Antarctic Survey to significantly increase autonomous scientific measurements in the Antarctic, without increasing transport costs or emissions.

Ultra-Low Temperature Battery project

The Ultra-Low Temperature Battery (ULTB) project will explore the feasibility of a high energy density battery chemistry combined with innovative packaging and control electronics, that will be capable of operating in one of the harshest environments in the world.

OXIS Energy will develop a low-temperature electrolyte for lithium-sulfur (Li-S) rechargeable battery chemistry, while Hyperdrive Innovation will contribute a chemistry-agnostic battery management system and packaging that will withstand and outperform the current lead-acid battery solutions.

Antarctic extremes

The ULTB project will be led by Hyperdrive Innovation, with advisory input from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which will be the first customer for the project output.

The resulting technology will lead to a follow-on, mid-stage programme to develop a high energy density rechargeable battery that will operate at –80°C. OXIS and Hyperdrive will then look to expand the use of this technology to adjacent markets.

‘The superior energy density offered by lithium-sulfur makes it well suited for portability, especially in vast, remote locations like the Antarctic, where flight is the only method of transport and operations are restricted by resources and weather windows,’ says Stephen Irish, Managing Director of Hyperdrive.

He continues: ‘We are particularly excited to have the opportunity to prove our Battery Management System (BMS) technology for use with this emerging cell chemistry, working with BAS to tackle the challenges of designing an energy system capable of withstanding extremely cold temperatures.’

Lithium-sulfur battery technology

Lithium-sulfur chemistry is a next-generation battery technology that has a theoretical energy density far higher than any lithium-ion solution, according to OXIS. The company has been developing Li-S cells for more than 10 years, and has already built pouch cells that achieve 300 Wh/kg, which is more than any Li-ion chemistry can practically achieve.

Li-ion as a technology is already on the market as a range of chemistries, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, while Li-S is only just beginning to enter the market.

‘It is very difficult to secure the effective utilisation of battery systems in extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold,’ says Huw Hampson-Jones, CEO of OXIS Energy.

‘OXIS Li-S cell technology can operate at up to +80°C, but to do so at the other extreme of –80°C is very challenging,’ he continues. ‘The programme will have an important impact on vehicles operating in cold climates, such as North America and northern European countries.’

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