Amprius, Inc., a manufacturer and developer of high-energy and high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, announced recently that it is supplying advanced lithium ion cells to the Airbus Defence and Space Zephyr Program. Using Amprius’ cells, which contain a 100% silicon anode, the Zephyr S flew more than 25 days, setting a new endurance and altitude record for stratospheric flight.
The Zephyr platform is a new class of unmanned air vehicle that operates as a high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) enabling affordable, persistent, local satellite-like services. Combining solar power and lithium-ion batteries, the Zephyr aircraft holds world records for endurance as well as altitude, flying at 70,000 feet or higher. This stratospheric platform can fly for months at a time and combines the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The platform is expected to be used in a wide range of emerging applications, including maritime surveillance and services, border patrol missions, communications, forest fire detection and navigation. Airbus has two variants of the Zephyr, designed to accommodate a variety of payloads. The production model Zephyr S has a wingspan of 25m and weighs less than 75kg. It is able to carry, see, sense and connect payloads. Currently in development, the larger Zephyr T has a wingspan of 33m and weighs 140kg.
Its larger size enables it to accommodate payloads with larger masses.
Amprius has pioneered the application of silicon for lithium ion anodes. Based on proprietary silicon nanowire technology, Amprius has demonstrated breakthrough performance in energy density and cycle life. Silicon anodes have much higher specific capacity compared to graphite anodes, which are used in conventional lithium ion batteries. However, in particle or film structures silicon is not stable and lasts only a few recharge cycles. Amprius’ silicon nanowire structures overcome this instability and thereby enable hundreds of cycles with specific energies of over 435 Wh/kg and energy densities in excess of 1200 Wh/liter.
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