FINE CERAMICS WORLD
Introduction to Fine Ceramics
Characteristics of Fine Ceramics
Learning About Fine Ceramics
Part 1: What Makes Fine Ceramic Knives so Special?
Part 2: Which Part Uses Fine Ceramics?
Part 3: Fine Ceramics Inside the Body
Part 4: Decorative Fine Ceramic
Part 5: Fine Ceramics at Work in the Deep Sea
Part 6: Fine Ceramics at Work in Space
Part 7: Fine Ceramics Opening Up Opportunities for New Types of Energy
Fine Ceramics in Daily Life
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  HOME > Learning About Fine Ceramics > Part 6: Fine Ceramics at Work in Space 
Learning About Fine Ceramics
Part 6: Fine Ceramics at Work in Space

Fine Ceramic Materials Play an Important Role in Space Development
The Japanese asteroid probe "Hayabusa" was the first in the world to successfully bring back a sample of material from an asteroid. Fine Ceramic components (alumina) -- which have superior strength, corrosion resistance, heat resistance and insulating properties -- and advanced metallizing technology (brazing technology) -- which can join different materials in a way which makes them extremely airtight, even in space -- were used on the terminals of the lithium-ion battery mounted on the Hayabusa as an emergency power source. The "Hayabusa" asteroid probe
The "Hayabusa" asteroid probe
(Illustration: Akihiro Ikeshita)

Understanding Fine Ceramics and Related Technologies
On lithium-ion batteries, an insulating material (which does not conduct electricity) is needed between the electrolytic solution inside and the metal case that it is enclosed in, and between the metal terminals used to conduct the electricity and the lid. Highly reliable Fine Ceramics -- with their superior strength, corrosion resistance, heat resistance and insulating properties -- are more suitable as a material than resin or glass in order to maintain battery performance over a long period of time in the harsh environment of space, where temperature variations are extreme and there is exposure to cosmic rays (radiation), and also to withstand the impact when being launched into space from earth. Furthermore, in order to prevent liquid leaks from the battery, it is essential that high levels of hermeticity (airtight structure) are maintained, even in space. By using advanced metallizing technology to join the different materials of metal and Fine Ceramic used on the battery, it was possible to achieve a seal that remained highly reliable over a long period of time and thus contributed to the stable operation of the battery.
Lithium-ion battery Lithium-ion terminals (battery lid)
Lithium-ion battery Lithium-ion terminals (battery lid)
(Photos: The Furukawa Battery CO., LTD.)

Hayabusa Project
Hayabusa set off for the "Itokawa" asteroid in May 2003 and landed to collect samples in November 2005. Equipment problems meant that communications with the probe were lost temporarily, and there was also trouble with the main engine stopping. There was concern about whether the probe would be able return to earth, but it successfully reentered our atmosphere in June 2011 and the capsule containing the samples was safely recovered. This was a first-ever achievement.

Hayabusa approaching Itokawa Hayabusa collecting samples on Itokawa The capsule which safely returned to earth
Hayabusa approaching Itokawa Hayabusa collecting samples on Itokawa The capsule which safely returned to earth

(Illustrations: Akihiro Ikeshita)
(Photo: Courtesy of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA))

Part 1: What Makes Fine Ceramic Knives so Special? Part 2: Which Part Uses Fine Ceramics? Part 3: Fine Ceramics Inside the Body
Part 4: Decorative Fine Ceramics   Part 5: Fine Ceramics at Work in the Deep Sea   Part 6: Fine Ceramics at Work in Space
Part 7: Fine Ceramics Opening Up Opportunities for New Types of Energy        

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