India is exploring the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) batteries for its future Mars missions as it forms 95.32% of the planets gas composition. The Department of Science & Technology (DST) has selected Dr Chandra Shekhar Sharma, an Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad, for Swarna Jayanti Fellowship for his proposal to develop a working prototype of Metal-CO2 battery technology for the Indian Mars mission. He heads the Department of Chemical Engineering and Creative & Advanced Research Based On Nanomaterials (CARBON) Laboratory. He is among 21 other scientists who have been awarded the fellowship.
In the early part of 2020, Dr Sharma proved the Metal-CO2 concept by using candle soot carbon as a cathode and tested a coin cell (battery) as assembled in a simulated Mars atmosphere. The cell performed better in the simulated Martian atmosphere as compared to a pure CO2 atmosphere. The challenge will be to develop a battery (energy storage system) suitable for the extreme Martian environment.
Dr Sharma will receive due support from DST and Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) to further develop the concept. “A prototype will be developed and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will be consulted for the Indian space mission,” Tweeted the Ministry of Education. A Metal-CO2 battery has the potential to provide high specific energy density and reduce the mass and volume of the surface landers and rovers enabling a reduction of payload mass and launch cost in planetary missions.
Metal–air batteries are already attracting interest among the world of researchers as they provide high energy density. Most of the research is geared on the use of oxygen (O2) rather than carbon dioxide which can be utilized as the reactant gas alone and help the greenhouse challenges. Metal-CO2 can also help India to find an alternative to the Lithium-ion batteries as lithium is expensive and mined in a handful of countries including China. However, Metal-CO2 is not the most efficient carbon capture and storage (CCUS) method for Earth applications as more CO2 is regenerated in the charging process. The technology has to be modified with alternative materials for negating this effect.
ISRO has announced Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM 2) or the Mangalyaan-2 mission launch year as 2024. ISRO is also planning the Shukrayaan-1 mission to reach the planet Venus which has an atmospheric composition of 96.5 % Carbon Dioxide.