StoreDot and the Israeli Electric Company (IEC) have been approved by NASA to conduct the first space-based research and development programme into new battery materials.

As part of the Israel Space Agency and The Ramon Foundation’s RAKIA mission to the International Space Station in February, 2022, StoreDot’s XFC technology will undergo two weeks of testing in zero gravity conditions.

The results are expected to pave the way for a new generation of lithium-ion batteries and accelerate the time to market of StoreDot’s ‘5-minute’ charge battery by bringing energy density and cycle life into line with the requirements of EV OEMs.

Coin cells of StoreDot’s silicon-dominant anode XFC battery will undergo hundreds of charge and discharge cycles, with the results collected by means of a computer contained within the enclosed unit.

Once the experiment, which was designed in collaboration with and funded by the IEC, is returned to earth, StoreDot’s team of scientists will undertake analysis of the data, as well as examine the battery itself to note any physical or chemical changes that have taken place during the experiment.

In particular, StoreDot will use the experiment to gain new insights into the chemical reactions that cause silicon to expand during the fast-charging process. This will be achieved by using zero gravity conditions to identify irregularities in the silicon surface of the anode.

Findings from the research will be incorporated into the first engineering samples of StoreDot’s silicon-dominant anode XFC battery for EVs, which will be available for testing by the end of 2022.

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“StoreDot remains steadfast on pushing the boundaries of battery materials research and development and this project marks the next exciting stage in that journey,” said Storedot CEO, Doron Myersdorf. “This will be the first time XFC has been tested in the zero gravity conditions of space and we believe the results could be absolutely game-changing. Not only in terms of advancing XFC technology, but also, potentially, by opening up entirely new avenues in materials research that will have implications that extend far beyond the battery industry.”

Jointly funded by the Israel Space Agency and The Ramon Foundation, the RAKIA (meaning sky in Hebrew) programme is Israel’s contribution to Ax-1, the world’s first private mission to the ISS. As part of the event, astronaut Eytan Stibbe will travel to the ISS on the SpaceX Dragon capsule, becoming only the second Israeli astronaut to journey into low earth atmosphere.

While on board, he will undertake 200 hours of scientific projects and educational outreach, which will include transmitting a series of live lessons for Israeli schoolchildren.

In order to stimulate Israeli business interest in the space industry, the RAKIA programme invited technology providers to submit proposals for space-based experiments.

StoreDot is one of two companies chosen by the IEC to participate in the programme. In total, more than 40 experiments will be undertaken during the mission spanning areas such as chemistry, astrophysics, optics, radiation, genetic research immunology, agritech and more.

“As this is something that has never done before it’s difficult to know exactly what we will discover, but the methodology of analysing reactions in space has huge potential and will enable us discover things that simply would not be possible on earth,” added Myersdorf.

“It is incredible to think this experiment conducted some 200 miles above earth could have significant implications for improving the quality of life on its surface. Not only by helping to accelerate the transition to clean electric mobility through the development of advanced lithium-ion batteries, but also potentially opening up entirely new avenues for material research that can support the development of other transformative industries – from healthcare and renewable energy to utilities and chemicals.”

StoreDot’s XFC FlashBattery technology works with the chemistry of conventional lithium-ion batteries, taking EV charging times from hours to minutes, says the company. This is achieved primarily by replacing graphite in the cell’s anode with metalloid nano-particles, such as silicon, to overcome major issues in safety, cycle life and cell swelling during the charging process.

In 2019, the company, whose investors include BP, Daimler, TDK and Samsung Ventures, used a small cell design of its XFC technology to demonstrate a full live charge of a two-wheeled EV in five minutes.

StoreDot launched engineering samples of the small form factor battery in January, 2021.