Women Tech Leaders Combine Efforts For Advanced Battery Products

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The University of Connecticut and Cadenza Innovation, Inc. have announced that they will conduct highly specialized materials analysis and synthesis for use in lithium-ion-based energy storage. Improved battery performance and advanced battery products will also be part of the long-term research agreement.

advanced battery products
Courtesy of Cadenza Innovation, Inc.

Dr. Radenka Maric, UConn’s Vice President for Research and CT Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy, is the principal investigator on the project. The technical work will be conducted at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering in Dr. Maric’s lab.

The Center provides an umbrella and platform for the development of scientific and engineering knowledge bases and transformational breakthroughs, not only in developing and validating advanced energy systems concepts, but also in cost effective engineering and demonstration of the long term operation and reliability. Additional work on the Cadenza project will take place at the recently opened Innovation Partnership Building at the UConn Tech Park by Professors Sina Shahbazmohamadi and Steven Suib.

“Dr. Maric and the UConn clean energy engineering team are conducting vital research for energy storage and a range of other critical technologies,” says Cadenza Innovation Founder and CEO Dr. Christina Lampe-Onnerud. “Their world-class facilities, exceptional R&D staff, and robust capabilities for analysis make them an ideal partner. With UConn’s help, Cadenza Innovation looks forward to advancing the state-of-the-art in graphite anodes, specifically, as well as batteries and energy storage overall.”

Cadenza Innovation is a pioneering provider of energy storage solutions for license to lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery manufacturers. The word “cadenza” comes from the world of music and refers to a moment in a piece when a musician within the ensemble is allowed some freedom of expression and artistry in the work. The company’s mission is to deploy intellectual property, field-proven operational, and mass production expertise along with key technology partners to provide global leadership in energy — density, lowest possible costs, and safety. Cadenza Innovation is licensing its technology to allow immediate access to its highly simplified design for large lithium-ion energy storage systems.

battery performance products“Cadenza has the technical capability and holds key patents to develop game-changing battery technologies,” Dr. Maric acknowledged. “UConn has the expertise and unmatched research facilities to conduct rigorous, reproducible, accurate specialty materials analysis to help their technology advance. We’re thrilled to be supporting the growth of a cutting-edge company like Cadenza.”

This three-year research relationship has already led to new offshoots, including several School of Engineering Senior Design Projects and material characterization using advanced capabilities through UConn’s Institute of Materials Science Industrial Affiliates Program.

High Purity Graphite and Advanced Battery Products

The collaboration between Cadenza Innovation and UConn builds upon the startup’s partnership with Syrah Resources, the only major, fully funded, natural graphite development project in construction globally. Graphite is a versatile non-metallic material yet exhibits both metallic and non-metallic properties, making it suitable for many applications. Key graphite properties include electrical and thermal conductivity, inertness, lubrication, resistance to corrosion, and resistance to high temperatures.

Purified natural flake graphite has a higher crystalline structure and offers better electrical and thermal conductivity than synthetic material. Many in the tech field agree that switching to natural graphite will lower production cost with same or better Li-ion performance.

Cost of production is a significant driver of user demand, with a ton of synthetic graphite costing over twice the amount to produce compared to all the forms of natural graphite, given that the raw material is baked for over a month at high temperatures to remove the impurities. Global policy, sales momentum, and industry investment continue to build for the electric vehicle market. As a result, the lithium-ion battery market size is expected to grow to 500GWh in 2025, from 60GWh in 2015, and the impact on flake graphite will be significant.

By 2020, Syrah is projected to be the world’s largest individual graphite producer with approximately 40% market share from its operation in Mozambique. The company has committed to international standards for environmental sustainability through internal capability and partnering with stakeholders, recognizing that environmental performance protects their license to operate and supports the company’s long-term success.

Women Tech Leaders and their Contributions to their Fields

Notably, Dr. Maric and Dr. Lampe-Onnerud were both honored by the Connecticut Technology Council in 2015 as part of the group’s 11th Annual Women of Innovation Awards Gala: Dr. Maric for Research Innovation and Leadership and Dr. Lampe-Onnerud for Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership.

Dr. Maric, an internationally recognized expert in fuel cell technology, is responsible for the development of novel methods for nano-structure development with a controlled morphology of films with applications in fuel cell, batteries, sensors, and other coating applications. Her focus has been in the fundamental understanding of microstructure and electrochemical properties of materials. She joined UConn in 2010 as part of the Eminent Faculty Initiative, a unique partnership between UConn, the Connecticut General Assembly, and industry stakeholders committed to positioning Connecticut as a global leader in sustainable green energy R&D.

Among the world’s foremost authorities on battery chemistry and design, Dr. Lampe-Onnerud is a 20-year battery industry expert. A World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, she has shared insights into energy storage and climate change at Davos and for various United Nations groups. Dr. Lampe-Onnerud is also an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame winner, an MIT Technology Review Young Innovator award recipient, and has earned multiple distinctions for her commitment to environmental sustainability. She holds more than 80 patents.

One State’s Focus on Clean Renewable Energy

The lead investigator on the UConn/ Cadenza project, Dr. Maria, is CT Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy. The Clean Energy Fund has aimed to develop, invest in, and promote clean sustainable energy sources. A surcharge on Connecticut ratepayers’ utility bills provides the funding for the Clean Energy Fund, and the charge currently stands at “not less than” $0.001 per kWh (1 mill per kWh).

The Fund invests in:

  • solar photovoltaic energy,
  • solar thermal,
  • geothermal energy,
  • wind, ocean thermal energy,
  • wave or tidal energy,
  • fuel cells,
  • landfill gas,
  • hydropower that meets the low-impact standards of the Low-Impact Hydropower Institute,
  • hydrogen production and hydrogen conversion technologies,
  • low emission advanced biomass conversion technologies, and,
  • alternative fuels, used for electricity generation including ethanol, biodiesel, or other fuel produced in Connecticut and derived from agricultural produce, food waste, or waste vegetable oil.

About the University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut is one of the top 25 public research universities in the nation and is a research leader in the fields of genomics, advanced materials, cell biology, cardiovascular research, additive manufacturing, biomedical devices, cybersecurity, and nanotechnology. As Connecticut’s flagship institution of higher education, UConn serves as an important resource for Connecticut economic development and is dedicated to building collaborations with industry and entrepreneurs. With more than $3.6B in investment from the state of Connecticut and industry partners, UConn will continue to train outstanding students, perform breakthrough research, and develop innovative solutions for the marketplace.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

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