iX Challenge: Lightweight Energy Storage at Cold Temperatures

The focus of this Challenge, working with the NSTIx Operational Technology Co-Creation Centre and the British Antarctic Survey, is to develop a person-portable energy storage system (along with the associated charging/safety electronics) that can be recharged at a temperature as low as –40°C.

Funding Details
When

Registration Opens

01/08/2022

Registration Closes

23/09/2022

Award

Successful applicants will be invited to pitch to the NSTIx Operational Technology Co-Creation Centre with the opportunity of being awarded a 16-week funded opportunity to develop a demonstrator.

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Background

The National Security and Defence community, alongside the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have a requirement to deploy large energy storage devices (ranging in sizes from approximately 1 – 10 KWh) in remote and cold (lower limit of –40°C) locations to power a range of sensors.

The focus of this Challenge is to develop a person-portable energy storage system (along with the associated charging/safety electronics) that can be recharged at a temperature as low as –40°C. Nb; it is envisaged that existing energy harvesting technology, such as photovoltaics, will be used and while the development of this is out of scope, the integration will be crucial to a successful project.

Challenge

Currently, lead acid batteries are utilised that are transported using small ‘Twin Otter’ aircraft to the Antarctic. These aircraft have a load capacity similar to that of a Land Rover. Due to the severe weight penalty incurred by using lead acid batteries, these aircraft must often ‘island hop’ to refuel as they cannot reach their destination in one trip, leading to an inefficient transportation system. When the lead acid batteries are in operation powering environmental sensors, there are left without human interaction/maintenance for up to 3 years, therefore photovoltaics are used to recharge the batteries.

Lead acid batteries are currently used because they are robust and can be charged at low temperatures. It would be ideal to switch to lighter-weight energy storage devices, such as Lithium-ion batteries (LiBs). However, typical charging boundaries for LiBs are between 0 to 40°C and severe and irreversible damage can occur when charging LiBs below 0°C.

Charging will occur at temperatures as low as –40°C, therefore new technologies are required to achieve the balance between reduced weight, operation at -40°C, and compatibility with energy harvesting/recharging mechanisms.

Potential approaches are novel battery chemistries, a low-power heating mechanism that fits within the power output requirements (detailed at the link below), or an alternative form of low-maintenance energy storage. Another key consideration is that maintenance will occur a maximum of once per year, so any system must be robust and require very little human interaction.

Eligibility & Assessment Criteria

Entrants to this competition are welcomed from:

  • Academia, RTO’s, established businesses, start-ups, SMEs, or individual entrepreneurs
  • UK Based or have the intention to set up a UK base or 5Eyes geographies
  • Other geographies will be considered in a case-by-case basis

Data utilised in developing, testing, and implementing the solution must reside on UK-based systems.

Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

A cross-section of TRLs will be considered for this Challenge, ranging from those in development (e.g. TRL 4-6) or to readily deployable commercial-off-the-shelf products (TRL 9). Low TRL research is out of scope due to the timescales involved.

Rewards & Benefits

Successful applicants will be invited to pitch to the NSTIx Operational Technology Co-Creation Centre with the opportunity of being awarded a 16-week funded opportunity to develop a demonstrator with a budget of £50,000.00.

Successful demonstration is likely to lead to a follow-on project.

A briefing event will be held on 24th August: details to follow.

For further information including operational requirements and briefing details, follow the link below.

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