LOS ANGELES, CA – California Lithium Battery is proud to announce its selection as a 2013 TechConnect National Innovation Awardee for the development of its breakthrough very-high specific capacity Lithium-ion silicon-graphene (SiGr) composite anode material. CalBattery will present full-cell Li-ion battery test results at the TechConnect National Innovation Showcase on May 14th in Washington, D.C.
Each year the TechConnect Innovation Awards committee selects the top early-stage innovations from around the world submitted to the TechConnect Innovation Summit. Rankings are based on the potential positive impact the technology will have on a specific industry sector.
“With hundreds of innovative technologies to choose from, we are delighted that TechConnect identified our silicon-graphene anode battery material as having the potential to be a game-changer in the Li-ion battery industry,” said Phillip Roberts, President of California Lithium Battery. “It is clear that today’s battery technologies are not capable of meeting the performance and cost challenges demanded by the marketplace. Whether used in smart phones, EVs, or energy storage systems, our SiGr anode material has shown to dramatically improve the performance of Li-ion batteries in combination with existing or new high-energy density cathode or high-voltage electrolyte materials”, stated Roberts.
Recently, the CalBattery SiGr anode material was chosen for testing by Quallion as part of a government funded two year li-ion battery development project for satellite use applications.
The Innovation Showcase is the world’s largest showcase and accelerator for industry-vetted emerging-technologies that are ready for commercialization.
About California Lithium Battery Inc.
Located at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, (LACI) California Lithium Battery, Inc. is in the business of developing and commercializing leading edge battery materials, components, cells and systems. Its novel very-high capacity Li-ion silicon-graphene composite anode material was developed over several years in conjunction with Argonne National Laboratory. It has shown to outperform conventional graphite anode materials by more than 300%+ in independent laboratory tests. CalBattery is now in the process of scaling up to produce SiGr anode material to meet the growing demand from global Li-ion battery and EV manufacturers.
Posted by Erica Pincus and Doug Rand on April 05, 2013 at 01:33 PM EDT
Last week, the Department of Energy launched an expanded version of its popular America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Program—which, since 2011, has unleashed the National Laboratories’ unlicensed patents for use by startups looking to build their businesses and bring energy technologies from the lab to the marketplace. The revamped program expands the class of eligible startups to include all companies that are less than five years old, have fewer than 50 employees, and have received less than $5 million in funding since incorporation.
The announcement advances the Administration’s Startup America initiative to promote high-growth entrepreneurship and follows a recent speech at Argonne National Laboratory in which the President emphasized the importance of energy innovation, saying “right now, few areas hold more promise for creating good jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy.”
Those interested in taking part in the Program—which makes National Laboratories’ unlicensed patents available to startups at a reduced fee of $1,000 for up to three patents—can browse available patents through DOE’s online Energy Innovation Portal.
Below, Phil Roberts (CEO of California Lithium Battery)—participant in the first round of the America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge—share his experience with the innovative DOE program.
What does your company make, and why is that exciting?
Phil Roberts: California Lithium Battery (CalBattery) was started more recently, in 2011, with the goal of finding technology that could, in a short period of time, help to dramatically improve the performance and lower the cost of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries made in the U.S. In 2009, I was leading Ionex Energy Storage Systems when a representative from Argonne National Laboratory who mentioned that they were developing a new lithium battery material that had the potential to improve the performance and lower the cost of our existing lithium battery technology, and who asked if we would be interested in such a technology. Argonne then introduced a silicon graphene composite anode material to us. We tested that material over the course of the past year and recently licensed it to manufacture the technology as a standalone material, and eventually incorporate it into our own advanced energy storage battery in order to increase its capacity by a factor of three or more. CalBattery spun out of Ionex and formed to commercialize the Argonne technology, which, Argonne tests show, can dramatically increase conventional Li-ion battery performance and lower their life time cost when coupled with other new advanced Li-ion cathode and electrolyte materials.
How was your experience participating in the America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge?
Roberts: The option agreement from the program gave CalBattery a sense of confidence regarding our ability to get a license for the material. The intellectual property (IP) is a very important aspect of building a business like ours because without having IP ownership at some level, it is difficult to obtain sources of capital; people won’t invest unless the company owns some rights for the technology in which they are investing.
What’s next for your company?
Roberts: CalBattery is in discussions with a variety of major companies making both batteries and electric vehicles, and is now working to scale up the production of its silicon graphene battery material. These are matters of transformational science and game-changer technology because they enable companies to make and sell a product that could improve the economy and reduce global emissions in a substantial way. Everyone likes to be an innovator to a certain degree or to create something. Many people could find a way to take some of these technologies that are just sitting there and really ‘do what Americans do best’—innovate.
Learn more about DOE’s America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Program here.
Erica Pincus is a Student Volunteer at OSTP
Jared Newman / TIME.com
Pushing Lithium-Ion’s Limits
Virtually every smartphone today relies on lithium-ion batteries, which provide power by transferring electrons between the anode and cathode of a battery cell. The amount of lithium ions inside the battery directly affects how long your phone can last on a charge.
The problem lies in the graphite that stores lithium ions in the anode of a battery. Graphite has a theoretical limit to how much lithium it can hold, and today’s batteries have pretty much reached it. While bigger batteries are always an option–as seen in Motorola’s Droid Razr Maxx–most people don’t want thicker, heavier phones, so phone makers sacrifice battery life in the name of slenderness.
With graphite-based anodes reaching peak capacity, the race is on to replace graphite with silicon, a material that can offer ten times the capacity of today’s batteries–at least in theory.
“There’s a lot of research going on, because silicon is the best material for absorbing lithium, and it has the highest potential capacity of any material now,” said Phillip Roberts, CEO of California Lithium Battery.
Swapping silicon for graphite isn’t easy. Silicon swells while charging, causing electrical contacts to break during discharge, and ultimately degrading the battery. That’s a dealbreaker for smartphones, which need to survive through at least a couple of years’ worth of daily recharging.
California Lithium Battery is working on a composite of silicon and graphene–a Nobel prize-winning material made from atom-thick layers of graphite–that combines the capacity of the former with the stability of the latter. And unlike some other silicon-based anode solutions, this composite, which is licensed from Argonne National Laboratory, prevents the agglomeration of silicon that leads to swelling and reduced cycle life, Roberts said.
Roberts hopes that within six months, the company can produce material by the metric ton and send it out to battery makers and phone makers for testing. In two years, the company expects its silicon-based anode to replace the graphite-based anodes in existing batteries, bringing a 30 percent improvement in capacity.
“I would say within two years, you’re going to see that technology. It’s happening relatively quickly. Behind the scenes, there’s a lot going on,” Roberts said.
When paired with other advances in cathode and electrolyte materials, he expects capacity to improve by 100 percent, possibly within three years.
The Tech World Is Watching
Companies working on silicon anode technology have also felt the pressure from battery and device makers. California Lithium Battery was attracting so much attention that it changed its initial focus from electric cars to consumer electronics. CEO Phillip Roberts said “pretty much every smartphone maker” has shown interest in the company’s technology. “We haven’t contacted one company ourselves,” CEO Phillip Roberts said. “Every group so far that we’re working with contacted us.”
You have to wonder, though, how phone makers will use new battery technology once it’s available. Will they finally deliver the rock-solid, 24-hour batteries that we need, or will they push for ever-thinner devices that are just nice to look at? It seems we have a least a couple years to agonize over the answer.
LEMONT, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, located outside of Chicago, and California Lithium Battery, Inc. (CalBattery), a Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator portfolio company, announced today that they have signed a licensing agreement for an Argonne-developed, silicon-graphene composite anode material for high-energy lithium batteries.
CalBattery plans to move forward rapidly in the commercial scale-up and production of this breakthrough novel composite anode material, which tests show triples the energy capacity of the state-of-the-art graphite anode.
CalBattery has worked with Argonne for more than a year under a Work for Others agreement to develop the technology under the DOE’s Startup America program, which is part of a White House initiative to inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship. Startup America pairs innovative individuals, businesses, universities and foundations with a broad range of federal agencies with the goal of significantly increasing the number and success of American entrepreneurs.
“The CalBattery-Argonne collaboration is a shining example of the national public-private partnership enabled by DOE’s America’s Next Top Energy Innovator part of Startup America,” said Dr. Karina Edmonds, Technology Transfer Coordinator for DOE. “This technology was originally developed at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory as a result of Argonne’s ongoing pursuit to produce advanced battery materials that will substantially improve battery performance with products that startup companies can then take to global markets. This is the type of partnership envisioned by Startup America to boost U.S. competitiveness by supporting the high-growth startups across the country.”
“An important part of a national laboratory’s role is to perform research that enables U.S. industry to develop and manufacture advanced technologies to be marketed both domestically and internationally,” said Jeff Chamberlain, who heads Argonne’s Energy Storage Initiative and is Deputy Director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research Energy Innovation Hub.
“Argonne’s research efforts support the continued development of the American economy, as well as job creation; so we are extremely pleased that the lab has been able to help CalBattery attain its goals by working with the company to develop an anode technology that it will be able to manufacture and commercialize,” Chamberlain added. “This deal demonstrates the Department of Energy’s enthusiastic and practical support of research that supports entrepreneurship and U.S.-based start-ups. It also reflects the value DOE places on basic science as the basis for innovative advanced technologies like advanced lithium-ion batteries.”
CalBattery is a portfolio start-up company headquartered at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), which was started by The City of LA and the LA Department of Water and Power in 2011.
California Lithium Battery Inc. (CalBattery) – a start-up established in 2011 – has announced the development of a potential battery breakthrough that could significantly increase energy density and reduce costs. As the battery industry continues to struggle with performance and cost issues, especially when it comes to electric vehicles, technology breakthroughs are central to creating a competitive industry. While the CalBattery news is potentially important, however, the overlooked story here is how the company is a successful product of government investments in clean energy innovation. CalBattery’s breakthrough is a composite anode material for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) – one of the three main components of battery technology along with the cathode and electrolyte. The anode is the material in which an electric current flows into the battery. For most advanced batteries used in the market, graphite is typically used because it is lightweight and has a relatively high energy density. In comparison, silicon offers a much higher energy density potential, but is typically not stable enough for commercial use – after a few charges the silicon cracks and the battery is inoperable.
To solve this issue, CalBattery’s technology embeds nano-silicon on the graphite anode, which the researchers say provides a much more stable anode. The potential results: an anode that can greatly increase lithium-battery energy density. According to CalBattery CEO Phil Roberts, “This equates to more than a 300% improvement in LIB capacity and an estimated 70% reduction in lifetime cost for batteries used in consumer electronics, EVs, and grid-scale energy storage.” Specifically, independent tests have confirmed an energy density of 525 Wh/Kg in batteries with the company’s novel anode, whereas conventional batteries today have an energy density of between 100-180 Wh/kg. The Tesla Roadster, for example, has a battery pack with a reported energy density of 121 Wh/kg.
And solving this technological barrier required public-private partnerships and government investments in innovation. The company’s breakthrough anode material is the direct result of eight months of development work with Argonne National Laboratory, after having entered into a Work for Others agreement with the lab back in March. An Argonne-patented process is actually used in the nano-silicon embedding process, an approach that “overcomes the traditional problems associated with high-energy density anodes, such as massive volume expansion, high first cycle inefficiency and severe capacity fade,” as noted by Green Car Congress. After perfecting the embedding process, the challenge for CalBattery and Argonne was ensuring that the new anode material could work in a full battery cell with multiple cathode and electrolyte materials.
CalBattery also got an early boost from being a finalist in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2012 America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge. The Challenge aimed to “make it easier, quicker and cheaper for America’s entrepreneurs to access the patents of 17 National Laboratories and the Y-12 National Security Complex to America’s clean energy entrepreneurs,” with the only added benefit for the eventual winners being featured at ARPA-E’s annual Energy Innovation Summit. As of the Challenge’s submission deadline, 36 start-up companies signed 43 option agreements allowing them to license different government-developed technologies. (CalBattery licensed Argonne’s embedding process.)
Finally, state and local investments have also helped prepare CalBattery for commercialization. It’s headquartered at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). LACI, its website notes, was established to “accelerate development of cleantech start-ups by offering flexible office space, CEO coaching and mentoring, and access to a growing network of experts and capital.” The Incubator is funded in large part by municipal governmental entities like the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and the city’s redevelopment agency, CRA/LA, and collaborates with a variety of industry partners and educational and research institutions.
In the next two years, according to the press release announcing the breakthrough, CalBattery plans to sell its anode material to global battery and electric vehicle OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and begin U.S. production of “a limited quantity of specialized batteries for high-end applications.” While it remains to be seen how CalBattery’s technology will fare in its target markets – grid storage and electric vehicles – there can be no doubt that its success thus far can be linked to the national clean energy innovation ecosystem.