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Lithium Batteries With 200% Typical Energy Density

Solid Energy, a Boston-based startup, recently said it has developed battery materials that have 200% greater energy density. The company has created an “anode-less” battery prototype with 1200 Wh/L in energy density. Some lithium-ion batteries with graphite anodes provide less than 600 Wh/L. A thin sheet of lithium foil was used to replace the more conventional electrode material, which is graphite.

lithium ion battery

Image shown here is a generic battery, not the startup’s.


This new battery technology is compatible with existing battery manufacturing capabilities, so it can integrate well with them. The company has a goal of making materials for about 30 million cell phone batteries by 2016. Cell phone batteries are notorious for having to be recharged frequently, which inconveniences and irritates customers. Charge duration and recharge times are a significant consideration when people buy new cell phones.

Solid Energy launched in 2012 and has raised $4.5 million. It is hoping to raise $10 million in a second funding round. The company is already working with several companies, including Google, for its “Project Ara.” This is a very ambitious effort to bring modular, customizable smartphones to billions of people.

It sounds as if, potentially, the ARA phone could allow more than one battery, if that was preferred. “[T]he Ara platform is designed to permit hot-swapping of modules, without requiring you to power down the phone — which means that you could slide out the camera and replace it with a battery whenever you needed a little extra juice.”

So, if the Ara phone is launched, could it be possible to have four times the battery life of a current, conventional cell phone?

That Google would choose Solid Energy as a potential partner for such a huge project seems to speak well of the startup’s new battery materials. “The reason we’re focusing on the materials side is that it’s where we can add the most value, not in manufacturing,” explained CEO Dr. Qichao Hu.

An article in MIT Technology Review says Solid Energy’s battery technology is appropriate for smartphones, but probably not for electric cars, because it can’t be recharged enough times.

Some people drive the same car for ten years, but they usually change cell phones much more quickly. Lithium-ion batteries have become more high-profile recently because of the very notable success of the Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, and other modern electric cars. A lot more electric cars are following, so it will be intriguing to see if the advances made by the Boston startup will ever translate to electric cars.

Image by Kristoferb, via Wiki Commons

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