Lithium Graphene Batteries

Startup Battery Technology


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By Justin Williams
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

The end-all, be-all lithium-ion battery may be inching its way closer into our daily lives. I know, I know, we’ve all heard it before—another battery that saves the day.

But it’s true! With the conception of SiNode Systems’ new lithium graphene battery, the idea has been developed, tested, re-tested, and now proven.

Graphene StructureSiNode Systems just recently received the grand prize at the 2013 Rice Business Plan Competition, an award hailed as the World Series for startup companies. More than 400 teams applied from all over the world to enter; 42 were invited to compete, and one left as champion.

SiNode received over $900,000 in winnings for its victory, which will support the battery’s advancement into commercialized success.

GigaOm reports:

“Winning the Rice Business Plan Competition is further validation that our technology and business strategy are well-positioned for today’s consumer electronics market,” said Samir Mayekar, SiNode’s Executive Director.

For this small startup—headed by Northwestern University professor Harold H. Kung and selected students and formed only about a year ago—this is its second major achievement. It received accolade in November 2012 as it took top honors in the Energy Efficiency Category at the nationwide Cleantech Open Global Forum.

So while it may not be quite as exciting as the Cubs winning the pennant, SiNode Systems has given Chicagoans and the state of Illinois something to be proud of. And something the world can look forward to.

The Battery

The battery itself has two patented components that drive its development: a composite of silicon nanoparticles and a specially formatted graphene design.

But it’s the new graphene technology that holds the magic at the core of this new lithium-ion battery. Its design has a porous structure that allows electrons to move more freely between the anode and cathode while stabilizing the silicon of the battery.

The result, and what earned SiNode top honors at this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition, is in its anode that has the capacity to retain roughly ten times more energy than your traditional lithium-ion battery that contains a graphite anode. Imagine for a moment the simple luxury of having a cell phone battery you hardly ever have to charge.

Unfortunately, SiNode is putting a clamp on just how much overall energy capacity the battery can hold with its better anode. It’s the pressing question battery manufacturers and consumers want to know. Answers should be coming soon.

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Battery Future

When manufacturers do finally have that answer they’re looking for, a swarm of buyers will surround SiNode Systems, but for now, some others out there are making significant advances using silicon and other compounds to improve anode energy capacity; if they're used with SiNode’s battery, the future could be revolutionized.

3M (NYSE: MMM) has a new battery invention that would allow electronics to run 40 percent longer without a charge. The company uses a silicon alloy for its new anode. It allows for a 20 percent higher energy density when paired with a standard cathode.

GigaOm provides 13 other startups working to advance the next generation of battery. Here are a few:

Ambri was founded by MIT Professor Don Sadoway, with investments from Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla, and oil company Total (NYSE: TOT). The company is developing a battery for the power grid that incorporates salt between two liquid layers of metal. This battery wouldn’t be ready to hit the market for at least another year and a half.

Imprint Energy uses zinc instead of lithium for its new low cost battery. It’s also lightweight and hopes to appeal to wearable electronic manufacturers. Small volumes are already in production.

Alveo Energy is using water to create a low-cost, long-lasting battery. This battery would focus on power grid technology and has already secured a government grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for $4 million.

Envia is working on its advanced electric car battery that could run a car for 300 miles. It is backed by General Motors (NYSE: GM), maker of the Chevy Volt.

Sila Nanotechnologies is working with a lightweight lithium-ion battery that has double the capacity. It also received a grant from the DOE for $1.73 million.

Prieto Battery has a battery it says can charge in five minutes and last five times longer than the standard lithium-ion battery.

Every day, researchers are working on ways to improve battery life, and while we’re not seeing it firsthand quite yet, it’s coming. SiNode is confident in its commercialization, and these others are only several steps behind.

 

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