ISRO transfers space-grade Li-ion cell technology to BHEL

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Bangalore-headquartered The Indian Space Research Organisation has transferred its indigenous space-grade Li-ion cell production technology to state-owned engineering major Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL).

BHEL is in the process of establishing the Li-ion production facility near Bangalore in Karnataka.  Various equipment (both indigenous and imported) for establishing this facility have been procured and are being commissioned.

This information was shared by the Union Minister of Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh recently in the upper house of the Parliament.

The technology transfer agreement for the Li-ion cell production technology was signed between ISRO and BHEL in March 2018.

The production at BHEL facility is primarily targeted to meet Li-ion cell requirements for ISRO and other strategic sectors.  However, BHEL can also produce and sell Li-Ion cells for meeting other national or commercial applications by suitably modifying the space-grade cells, which can also lead to cost reduction.

“ISRO has already provided all technical documentation for establishing the production plant as well as hands-on training in various production activities for BHEL staff at ISRO’s facilities”—said the minister.

As per the Technology Transfer Agreement, space-grade Li-Ion cells manufactured by BHEL are meant for meeting the national requirements only.  However, BHEL can also sell the space-grade Li-ion cells to parties outside India after obtaining prior written consent from ISRO.

ISRO uses Li-ion batteries as power sources for satellite and launch vehicle applications due to their high energy density, reliability and long cycle life. Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) of ISRO at Thiruvananthapuram has successfully developed the technology to produce space grade Li-ion cell, demonstrated the performance of the cell under various testing conditions and established its cycle life characteristics in accelerated mode. These cells are currently being used for various satellite and launch vehicle applications.

Tata Chemicals: Another licensee

In March this year, Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL), a manufacturer of basic chemistry products (soda ash, sodium bicarbonate), also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ISRO for acquiring ISRO’s lithium-ion cell technology.

Under this MoU, ISRO would transfer the technology to Tata Chemicals so that it may utilise the knowhow for the manufacture of lithium-ion cells in India.  VSSC, ISRO would be providing this technology to TCL on a non-exclusive basis, to manufacture cells of varying capacity, size, energy density and power density—catering to a wide spectrum of power storage requirements.