A startup backed by iPod designer Tony Fadell just emerged from stealth with $18.5 million to bring breakthrough batteries to market in massive quantities

Lithium-ion battery factor

The battery startup Advano recently raised $18.5 million from investors including Tony Fadell, who’s credited with designing the iPod and later cofounded the company Nest.
Advano is among a handful of startups trying to develop lithium-ion batteries using the element silicon in part of the battery that stores charge.
These batteries could store 20% to 40% more energy than traditional cells.
Silicon is notoriously difficult to work with, but it’s only one of the problems that battery startups face on the road to commercialization.
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In the booming business of batteries, energy density is everything.

The idea is simple: If companies can pack more power into a smaller space, they can make devices that are longer-lasting, lighter, or have more room for other features.

In the last three decades, the energy density of lithium-ion cells — by far the most widely used batteries on the market, found in everything from iPhones to electric cars — has grown only incrementally, according to Yury Gogotsi, a battery researcher at Drexel University.

A handful of startups say they’re nearing commercialization of a breakthrough technology: a material, made with silicon, that could squeeze 20% to 40% more energy into lithium-ion batteries.

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Now, there’s a new competitor — and it’s bringing big backers to the fight.

Advano, a New Orleans-based battery startup, has just emerged from stealth mode, announcing that it raised $18.5 million from investors including Tony Fadell, who’s credited with designing the iPod and founded the smart thermostat company Nest, in addition to Peter Thiel’s Thiel Capital and Y Combinator.

Advano says its silicon-based material can improve the energy density of batteries by up to 40% and overcome some of the obstacles others have run into.

Experts say that might be possible, assuming the company is really able to overcome silicon’s notorious challenges. If it does, the next step will be bringing the material to market.

“No one has ever been able to make it work before,” Gene Berdichekvsy, the founder of Sila Nanotechnologies, a rival company, told Business Insider last year. “The problem in batteries isn’t coming up with a cool new piece of science.”

The promise and perils of silicon batteries

In a typical lithium-ion battery, ions of the element lithium — which generate charge — are stored in a carbon-based material called graphite, the same material found inside pencils.

The amount of energy inside a cell is limited, in part, by the number of ions that graphite can store. So one way to increase a battery’s energy density is to simply use another material, in place of graphite, that can store more ions — like silicon.

Silicon is a storage superstar. One gram can store about 1,000 milliamp hours, a measure of electric charge over time, according to Matthew Keyser, a battery expert at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). In comparison, graphite can store only about 350 milliamp …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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