Lithium-ion batteries just make a big leap in a small product


A materials company in Alameda, California, has spent the past decade working to improve the energy stored in lithium-ion batteries, an advance that will enable small gadgets and electric vehicles with much more.

They produce silicon -based particles that can replace the graphics of the anodes and hold more lithium ions carrying current in a battery.

Now the company is bringing its product to the market for the first time, providing a part of the anode powder battery in the future Who 4.0, a fitness wear. It’s a small device but has the potential to be a step forward for the battery field, where promising lab results have often failed to translate into commercial success.

“Think of Whoop 4.0 as ours Tesla Roadster, ”Said Gene Berdichevsky, CEO of Sila, who as Tesla’s seventh staff member helped solve some of the critical battery challenges for the company’s first electric car.“ It’s the first device on the market. which proves this success. “

Battery cells are made of Sila’s silicon -based particles.

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The company’s materials, with light help from other developments, increase the weight of the fitness tracker’s battery power by nearly 17%. That’s an important get in a field that’s generally inches ahead of a few percentage points a year.

This is equivalent to about four years of routine progress, “but in a huge leap,” said Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

They still face some real technical challenges, but the development is a good sign for potentially more capable batteries to help the world move away from fossil fuels while the risks of climate change. Increasing the amount of energy stored in batteries makes it easier for cleaner sources of electricity to power our buildings, cars, factories, and businesses.

For the transportation sector, more powerful batteries could reduce costs or increase the range of electric vehicles, addressing two of the most common issues preventing consumers from running out of their gas. guzzler. It also promises to deliver grid batteries that save a lot of energy from solar and wind farms, or consumer gadgets that last longer between charges.

Energy efficiency is the key to “electrifying everyone,” according to Berdichevsky, the Renewal under 35 in 2017.

In the case of the newly worn health, the novel battery material and other improvements made it possible for Boston-based Whoop to reduce the device by 33% while maintaining a five-day life on the battery. The product is now thin enough to fit on “cloth fabric” as well as worn like a watch. It went on sale Sept. 8.

They, announcing $ 590 million funding in January, there was also a partnership to develop battery materials for cars including BMW and Daimler. The company says its technology can carry up to 40% of the power of lithium-ion batteries.

Fire prevention

Berdichevsky was interviewed for and began his career at Tesla before his senior year at Stanford University, where he was working on a degree in mechanical engineering. He ended up playing an important role in dealing with a potentially dangerous situation for the company: that the fire of any of the thousands of batteries inserted in a vehicle would ignite the entire package.

He set up a program to systematically review a series of battery pack designs. After hundreds of tests, the company developed a combination of battery configurations, heat transfer materials, and cooling channels that largely prevented running fires.

After Tesla’s launch of the Roadster, Berdichevsky felt he needed to commit another five years to see the company through to develop the next car, the Model So to take advantage of the opportunity to try something new.

In the end, he decided he wanted to build something of his own.

Gene Berdichevsky, chief executive officer and promoter of Sila.

DAVID PAUL MORRIS / SILA

Berdichevsky returned to Stanford for a master’s program studying materials, thermodynamics, and physics, in hopes of finding ways to improve conservation at the basic level. After graduation, he spent a year as a residential entrepreneur at Sutter Hill Ventures, looking for ideas that could be the basis of his own business.

This time, he found a scientist ROLE identify a method to produce silicon-based particles for the anodes of lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers have long seen silicon as a promising way to increase the power of batteries, because its atoms can be bonded with 10 times more lithium ions in weight than can be. graphite. That means they hold more of the charged molecules that make up the electricity in a battery. But the silicon anodes are likely to break while charging, because they coalesce to wait for the ions to move back and forth between the electrodes.

The paper, written by Georgia Institute of Technology professor Gleb Yushin, highlights the possibility of developing hard silicon materials with a porous core that can be multiple. quickly accept and release lithium ions.

The following year, Berdichevsky led Sila along with Yushin and Alex Jacobs, another Tesla engineer.

Obstacles and delays

The company spent the next decade tweaking its methods and materials, operating more than 50,000 iterations of chemistry while increasing its manufacturing capacity. Earlier, it decided to make drop-in materials that could replace the makers of lithium-ion batteries, rather than follow the more expensive and risky route of making complete batteries themselves.

They are not as far away as first expected to be.

After securing several million dollars from the ARPA-E division of the U.S. Department of Energy, the company once told the research agency that its materials could be available in 2017 products and in vehicles. year 2020. In 2018, when They announced the deal with BMW, It said its particles could help run the German EV automaker in 2023.

Berdichevsky says the company now expects to be in cars “more like 2025.” He said solving the “last mile” problems was more difficult than they expected. Along with the challenges of working with battery makers to get the best performance from novel materials.

“We are very optimistic about the challenges of scaling and bringing products to market,” he said in an email.

Whoop news signals that they They are able to engineer particles in a way that offers safety, life cycles, and other benchmarks to make the battery similar to those achieved by existing ones. product.



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