Development of a Lightweight Structural Rechargeable Battery for Electric Aircraft

Project number: 
UA Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Academic year: 
Background: The aviation industry has been increasingly exploring electrification as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operational costs. Electric aircraft represent a promising solution, offering lower carbon footprints and reduced noise pollution compared to conventional fossil fuel-powered aircraft. However, one of the significant challenges in the development of electric aircraft is the limited energy storage capacity and the overall weight of batteries required to power the aircraft. Traditional lithium-ion batteries used in electric aircraft are heavy and occupy valuable space, leading to reduced payload capacity and flight range. To overcome these limitations, researchers have been investigating the concept of integrating energy storage directly into the aircraft's structure. A "structural rechargeable battery" would serve the dual purpose of providing energy storage and acting as part of the aircraft's load-bearing structure, optimizing weight distribution and improving overall performance.
Problem Description: The capstone project focuses on developing a lightweight structural rechargeable battery specifically designed for electric aircraft applications. The primary objective is to integrate a battery system into an aircraft structure (e.g., wings, fuselage, etc.) that not only provides sufficient energy storage for extended flight range but also contributes to reducing the aircraft's overall weight and enhancing its aerodynamic efficiency. In addition, a possibility of harvesting a mechanical energy to re-charge a battery will be explored.

Design Requirements:
1. Energy Density: The battery must have a high energy density to store a significant amount of electrical energy while maintaining a low weight-to-energy ratio.
2. Structural Integration: The battery cells and components need to be seamlessly integrated into the aircraft's structure without compromising its mechanical properties and structural integrity.
3. Weight Optimization: The system should be designed with lightweight materials and efficient construction techniques to minimize the overall weight of the aircraft while maximizing energy storage capacity.
4. Safety and Reliability: Safety is paramount in aviation, and the battery design must meet stringent safety standards and demonstrate reliability during operation, charging, and discharging.
5. Thermal Management: Electric aircraft batteries generate heat during charging and discharging cycles, necessitating effective thermal management to prevent overheating and ensure optimal battery performance.
6. Fast Charging: The battery should be designed for fast charging capabilities to reduce turnaround times between flights and improve operational efficiency.
7. Certification and Compliance: The system design must comply with aviation regulations and standards, including airworthiness certification, to ensure its feasibility for commercial and private aircraft use.
The capstone project aims to address these challenges through advanced materials research, battery cell design optimization, thermal analysis, and structural simulations. By developing a high-performance, lightweight structural rechargeable battery for electric aircraft, the project seeks to contribute significantly to the advancement and widespread adoption of eco-friendly electric aviation technologies.

Get started and sponsor a project now!

UA engineering students are ready to take your project from concept to reality.