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Fine Ceramics, sometimes referred to as "advanced ceramics," are engineered materials that support the development of cutting-edge technology.

Fine Ceramics at Work in Space

Components in the Hayabusa Asteroid Probe

Materials to withstand shock and the harsh environment of space

Fine Ceramic Components 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

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.)

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 approaching Itokawa
(Illustrations: Akihiro Ikeshita)

Hayabusa collecting samples on Itokawa

Hayabusa collecting samples on Itokawa
(Illustrations: Akihiro Ikeshita)

The capsule which safely returned to earth

The capsule which safely returned to earth
(Photo: Courtesy of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA))

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