The ultracapacitor-based uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system enhances system reliability; reduces life-of-system, maintenance, and downtime costs; and greatly reduces environmental impact when compared to conventional UPS energy storage systems. This design provides power when required and absorbs power when required to smooth the system load and also has excellent low-temperature performance. The UPS used during hardware tests at Glenn is an efficient, compact, maintenance-free, rack-mount, pure sine-wave inverter unit. The UPS provides a continuous output power up to 1,700 W with a surge rating of 1,870 W for up to one minute at a nominal output voltage of 115 VAC. The ultracapacitor energy storage system tested in conjunction with the UPS is rated at 5.8 F. This is a bank of ten symmetric ultracapacitor modules.

Each module is actively balanced using a linear voltage balancing technique in which the cell-to-cell leakage is dependent upon the imbalance of the individual cells. The ultracapacitors are charged by a DC power supply, which can provide up to 300 VDC at 4 A. A constant-voltage, constant-current power supply was selected for this application. The long life of ultracapacitors greatly enhances system reliability, which is significant in critical applications such as medical power systems and space power systems. The energy storage system can usually last longer than the application, given its 20-year life span. This means that the ultracapacitors will probably never need to be replaced and disposed of, whereas batteries require frequent replacement and disposal. The charge-discharge efficiency of rechargeable batteries is approximately 50 percent, and after some hundreds of charges and discharges, they must be replaced. The charge-discharge efficiency of ultracapacitors exceeds 90 percent, and can accept more than a million charges and discharges. Thus, there is a significant energy savings through the efficiency improvement, and there is far less downtime for applications and labor involved in replacing an ultracapacitor versus batteries. Also, the lengthy lifespan of this design would greatly reduce the disposal problems posed by lead acid, nickel cadmium, lithium, and nickel metal hydride batteries.

This innovation is recyclable by nature, which further reduces system costs. The disposal of ultracapacitors is simple, as they are constructed of non-hazardous components. They are also safer than batteries in that they can be easily discharged, and left indefinitely in a safe, discharged state where batteries cannot.

This work was done by Dennis J. Eichenberg for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18649-1.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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