Electric Aircraft Graphic
New battery designs that are safer than today’s models will be required to power tomorrow’s electric-propelled aircraft like the one shown in this illustration. A NASA research project called SABERS is testing new ways to combine both familiar and exotic materials to build that better battery. (Credit: NASA)

With increasing emphasis on aviation sustainability, interest in using batteries to partially or fully power electric propulsion systems on aircraft of all sizes is growing each day. A NASA activity called SABERS, or “Solid-state Architecture Batteries for Enhanced Rechargeability and Safety,” is researching how to create a safer battery by using brand-new materials and novel construction methods.

The goal is to create a battery that has significantly higher energy than the lithium-ion batteries currently used. This battery also would not lose capacity over time, catch fire, or endanger passengers if something goes wrong.

The project has examined using a unique combination of the elements sulfur and selenium to hold electric charge. The project also seeks to use elements that have never been combined before to form a battery; for instance, a NASA-developed component called holey graphene (named for the holes in its surface to allow air to pass through) has a very high level of electrical conductivity. It is ultra-lightweight and environmentally friendly.