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Startup aims to bring its porous silicon battery to EVs and grid storage

By nanoguy ยท 20 replies
Jul 20, 2019
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  1. One of the reasons why electric cars aren't more ubiquitous and why our battery-powered devices don't last as much as we'd expect on a charge is that advancements in the field of energy storage haven't kept up with the rest of the innovation happening in the tech industry. While new battery technologies seem to pop up every few months with the same promise of higher energy density and durability, faster charging, and lower cost, none of these have made an appearance in commercial applications yet.

    Recently a Washington-based startup that has been keeping a low profile for years has unveiled plans to take their patented battery technology to market in 2020, with a project to build grid-scale batteries for the North-American power market. The company says its patented technology has been in the works for 15 years, and is an essential part of the "North American Solution to Climate Change," with four times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries at half the cost.

    A key person in this development is Christine Hallquist, head of Cross Border Power, who also had a failed gubernatorial run in Vermont last year -- two experiences that taught her about the challenges of transitioning to renewable energy without grid-scale storage in place. The Republican Governors Association was able to quickly shoot down her campaign with claims that her project would hike gas prices and local taxes.

    What the RPA didn't know is that a group of Canadian venture capitalists had been following Hallquist's campaign and saw it as the perfect opportunity for XNRGI, who silently developed a "porous" silicon battery that is apparently ready to ship at scale.

    XNRGI makes its batteries using silicon wafers that are similar to those used by semiconductor companies to produce their chips. After etching a very dense, 20 by 20 micron honeycomb pattern into those wafers, they coat them with lithium and other metals to form the anodes and cathodes of so-called "micro-batteries".

    While the idea of using silicon to improve energy density isn't new, the biggest roadblock has been that silicon expands when the battery is charging, which leads to deterioration and so-called "dendrites" that grow over time and have the ability to short out the electrodes, which is a big no-no for safety.

    The company says that each one of its micro-batteries has enough space between the electrodes and holds a low-enough charge on its own to prevent that from happening. Every 12 inch silicon wafer houses 36 million of these vertical micro-batteries, forming a macro-battery which has the added benefit of charging faster because of its unorthodox architecture. XNRGI has already built 600 of these for unnamed clients.

    It's worth noting that XNRGI's batteries are recyclable, and are not as susceptible to thermal runaway as traditional lithium-Ion batteries. Their energy density of over 400 Wh/kg makes them less expensive to make and thus an ideal candidate for EVs and grid-storage. That said, the company claims it can achieve the same $150/kWh regardless of the application or scale, which means these benefits are also available for all manner of consumer electronics such as wearables, smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

    Hallquist says the development of this battery technology was supported by an $80 million investment from Intel and Motorola, as well as public sources like the U.S. Navy and Department of Energy. Her company has exclusive rights to sell these batteries to utility companies in North America and is looking to start shipping them early next year.

    To put things in perspective, the current global capacity for battery technology is around 150 gigawatts. The inconvenient truth is that even at an estimated compounded annual growth rate of 40%, it's too little for our dreams of an electric future. Batteries also haven't really gotten any cheaper and they represent 35-45% of the price of an electric car. Until that changes, even if we could make more EVs, they'd still be too costly for the average consumer.

    This is where companies like XNRGI can help, provided that they play their cards right. By using manufacturing techniques that are already mature such as those used by chipmakers, they can cram more energy in less space at a lower cost, all while adding the most important ingredient needed in a car -- safety -- which you can see demonstrated in this video. In any case, this might just be the dream battery we've all been waiting for.

    Permalink to story.

  2. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,119   +2,406

    That they have maintained a low-profile, is, IMO, a great start rather than the gas emitting CEO of a certain company that some love and some hate.

    This sounds pretty cool, and if they can pull it off, it will hopefully translate into 4x range for EVs - pretty much ending range anxiety. Now all we need is ubiquitous charging stations. If this hits the market, I bet the charging stations will follow.

    It sounds very similar to this - https://phys.org/news/2019-01-tiny-silicon-particles-power-lithium.html which uses silicon in aerogel to obtain a 10x energy density over current lithium batteries.

    As much as I would like to see something like this come to market, I will believe it when it is actually on the market.

    As I see it, the big thing about this is that there are people out there doing the hard research that others seem to lack the understanding of its necessity - such as that gas emitting CEO of a certain company that some love and some hate.
  3. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 879   +425

    Quick, Oil billionaires, buy this company and stop their disgusting attempts of promoting electric energy.
    Odium, hk2000, Omid Matin and 2 others like this.
  4. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 879   +425

    If you were very rich and oil was making you a very powerful person, would you not do something to supress alternative energy companies? Given you did nothing illegal or could get away with doing it?
    I dont think I am making a wild guess when I say this is an interest of many rich people.
    Peterlang777 likes this.
  5. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Guru Posts: 420   +422

    If it were viable it'd be bought out long ago.
  6. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,570   +1,787

    No, because my name isnt Snidley Whiplash.

    Big companies like Chevron are ENERGY companies, not just OIL companies. If a viable green energy solution came up, these guys would be dog-piling on to get their hands on the tech and patent it so they could control the next generation of automobiles.
    Lounds likes this.
  7. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 879   +425

    Ken Olsen: "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."

    People make mistakes, and in hundreds of other startups and companies racing to create a new battery you can overlook a small one.
    Odium likes this.
  8. Kashim

    Kashim TS Addict Posts: 118   +105

    "with four times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries at half the cost." Uh-huh. Another pie-in-the-sky battery tech that promises to be just around the corner. I'll believe it when I can buy one at the store. I love the ridiculously outlandish claims though. Four times the energy at half the cost, and it's edible too! This article reminds of that new CPU tech article from a few days ago. Some company is siphoning up funding with the promise of a new type of CPU that can process more instructions per clock cycle than AMD or INTEL and it's more power efficient than ARM. Hilarious. These two companies should combine their super CPU + super battery ideas and build a time machine!

    [edit] All joking aside, I'm sure this battery company will release SOMETHING next year, but it won't be 4x the capacity at half the cost. That claim is just laughable.
    Athlonite, jbc029 and ForgottenLegion like this.
  9. koblongata

    koblongata TS Addict Posts: 212   +66

    Until you can test the actual products, this looks scammy.
    Athlonite and ForgottenLegion like this.
  10. CloudCatcher

    CloudCatcher TS Member

    Unfortunately, I have to agree - the spelling mistakes in the video do not inspire confidence.
  11. hay fizzy

    hay fizzy TS Rookie Posts: 17

    There already exists large scale silicon manufacturing in the Solar Panel industry this should bring down costs.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  12. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,119   +2,406

    For me, there comes a point where, in that kind of position, one would not need any more money to guarantee being able to afford to live.

    Also, holding back this kind of technology is something that I see as detrimental to the future of humanity.

    So, a very emphatic NO!

    I'll suggest that if you are in a country where you have representatives, contact them and ask them to make it illegal to squash patents that in doing so, may hinder, severely restrict, or hold back the progress of humanity.

    The CEO I was speaking of was Musk. If I were he, I would be on the phone TODAY talking to this company as they might have an invention that would save mine.

    IAMTHESTIG TS Evangelist Posts: 1,735   +825

    Just another one of those "I'll believe it when I see it" scenarios, as all energy storage promises are. It's wonderful to see research and innovation in this area but my gut feeling is batteries are not the long-term answer. Guess we'll have to wait to see with Musk makes of this... because he is of course, all knowing.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
    hk2000 and Athlonite like this.
  14. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,659   +320

    2020 should be an interesting year for batteries. Personally I'm a little more excited about 24M's advancement to Li-ion, described here. and in some more detail here. Knowing that Kyocera is building a pilot production plant for that this year, and the fact that it's a straightforward and well described improvement of Li-ion that solves most of its problems makes it feel more like a thing that's really happening.

    But if XNRGI provides real competition to that, all the better.
  15. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,119   +2,406

    IMO, capacitors are the ultimate answer; however, I have not heard of any recent developments in the field that would match these battery advancements. Research is definitely on-going.
    IMO, the 24M batteries are very interesting, and if a manufacturing plant is underway, then it sounds like they will beat XNRGI to market with something that has a similar capacity.

    I agree if XNRGI does bring their product to market, the competition will be beneficial.
  16. hk2000

    hk2000 TS Booster Posts: 72   +30

    Not only Oil companies- existing battery manufacturers won't just take it sitting down either. I lost count of how many "Alternative battery technologies" articles I read on Extreme Tech, C-Net and other sites that promised the same cheaper, longer life, faster charging .. . etc. I still lean to this being just another one in that long line of vaporware.
  17. Markoni35

    Markoni35 TS Addict Posts: 245   +113

    It doesn't look like they've solved the problems related to porous materials. They will quickly deteriorate over time. It always happens with micro-electrodes.
    It's similar to those foldable screens. No matter what the manufacturer is convincing us, one can immediately induce that they won't last long. Doesn't require a quantum physicist to see the obvious.
  18. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,119   +2,406

    What makes you think that?
  19. nojay

    nojay TS Rookie

    Well its a good thing for XNRGI that the National Laboratory that they got asigned to by the Department of Energy have pretty much already confirmed these claims. But funny comment none the less.
  20. nojay

    nojay TS Rookie

    this is true 24M seems pretty good but I believe XNRGI is beyond past their pilot program as they have been testing already with companies, other contries and governments. Either way one reason why I like XNRGi is that they have a way more safe battery than anything thats out there at least it seems with video proof of the battery in action taking a beating and still working with very little drop in output. And as well there batterires are pretty much recycable from the get go. Which is a huge benefit and advantage.
  21. John Galt

    John Galt TS Rookie

    Let's hope this doesn't turn out to be another EEStor...

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