KULR Technology’s thermal architecture included in two upcoming NASA-JPL space missions
(2 August 2018 - KULR Technology) KULR Technology announced today that its carbon fiber thermal management solutions, in particular custom-designed phase change heat sinks, will be used on two upcoming NASA-JPL missions – the 2018 CubeSat “Lunar Flashlight” mission and the 2020 Mars mission as part of the Mars Rover SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environment with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) equipment.
For both missions, the KULR Technology heat sinks will keep critical and sensitive components such as lasers and corresponding sensors at a cool and consistent temperatures throughout their use, avoiding signal distortion or other complications that can arise from overheating.
The 2018 CubeSat “Lunar Flashlight” mission will use a laser to explore water ice hidden in shadows and craters on the moon surface. It will be the first NASA and JPL mission to use the smaller, lighter, less expensive satellites known as CubeSats to orbit the moon.
“The use of these small CubeSats and exceptionally sensitive laser instruments to explore places such as lunar craters is a new and exciting kind of mission,” said KULR Technology’s CTO, Dr. Timothy Knowles, who has worked on NASA projects for decades. “And our technology, our heat sink, will keep the laser – the flashlight – from getting too hot and complicating or even corrupting the entire mission,” he said.
During the 2020 Mars Mission, SHERLOC will be mounted on the rover's robotic arm and use spectrometers, a laser, and a camera to search for organics and minerals that may be signs of past microbial life.
“The SHERLOC rover mission is literally the search for signs of extra-terrestrial life,” Knowles said. “That’s pretty exciting, but it also means that you have to be sure the equipment is performing as it should in ideal temperature ranges. Like the Lunar Flashlight mission, that’s what we can do.”
The innovative KULR design included in the “Lunar Flashlight” and “SHERLOC” projects is a unique and highly effective phase-change system that incorporates KULR’s proprietary, highly conductive vertical carbon fiber architecture with a material similar to wax that can change from solid to liquid while absorbing high amounts of heat energy. The combination of materials designed and assembled by KULR to exact specifications will draw heat safely away from sensors and other components needed to efficiently study lunar ice formations or scan for signs of life on Mars.
“For the Lunar mission, if the Flashlight laser gets above 24 Celsius the data can degrade -- jeopardizing the entire point of the mission,” Dr. Knowles said. “So, keeping it below 24 Celsius while the laser is spewing out heat at more than 100 Celsius is the trick. It’s like frying a hamburger and keeping the outside of the pan cool enough to touch – it’s not easy, but, in this case, very important.”
For the Mars mission, a pair of KULR heat sinks are designed to accept 5400 Joules of heat over an hour operating time while keeping the temperature of the spectrometer detector within design limits. All the components, including the KULR sinks, will be expected to last at least one Mars year – about 687 days on Earth.
For the CubeSat Flashlight and Mars Rover, KULR Technology will help keep mission-sensitive materials cool. But that’s not what KULR does exclusively. For the 2017 NASA NICER mission which explored deep space neutron stars, for example, KULR designed a system to keep the components from freezing during space exposure. Over years of work Knowles and his team at KULR have designed more than 100 different heat management configurations for NASA and other aerospace and commercial customers. According to Dr. Knowles, “Everything from solutions as big as a briefcase to ones as small as a quarter. If you need to manage heat energy during space exploration around sensitive electronics like lasers or optics, we can probably help.”
“The KULR team has been an essential part of many of our projects in the last two decades,” said Mike Pauken, Spacecraft Thermal Systems Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab. “We’re happy to be working with them and incorporating their thermal solutions as part of the SHERLOC Instrument on the upcoming Mars 2020 Rover Mission.”
KULR Technology’s core technology is vertically-aligned carbon fiber material that is lighter, more flexible, and more efficient than traditional thermal management products. KULR’s carbon fiber has virtually unlimited commercial and industrial applications in areas such as increasing the longevity of electronic components, maximizing the efficiency of energy storage, and contributing to the development and efficiency of electric vehicles and drones.
Among the more promising uses for KULR’s carbon fiber is dramatically improving battery safety. KULR, in development and testing with a NASA, has developed a thermal shield that can prevent dangerous lithium-ion battery fires and explosions due to thermal runaway. In March, KULR announced an agreement with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, to be the exclusive manufacturing partner of the Internal Short-Circuit (ISC) device that can cause predictable lithium-ion cell failures in controlled conditions.
The CubeSat “Lunar Flashlight” mission is set for launch in November 2018. The Mars 2020 mission is scheduled to launch in July or August 2020.
Founded by some of the foremost experts in aerospace thermal management, KULR Technology is joined by industry veterans in semiconductor and industrial manufacturing. The company’s investors and advisors include industry leaders from US, Japan, and China in the field of electrical vehicles, energy storage, communications, and semiconductors. KULR’s proprietary carbon fiber-based solutions are lighter, higher performance and more compliant than traditional solutions. Some applications of KULR’s carbon fiber material include space exploration, electric vehicles, cameras and laser displays, robotics, servers and data systems, power storage and consumer electronics.