Lithium-ion batteries have just made a huge leap in tiny products


A materials company in Alameda, California, has been working to increase the energy stored in lithium-ion batteries for the past ten years, an advancement that could allow smaller gadgets and electric cars to travel more.

Sila has developed silicon-based particles that can replace the graphite in the anode and accommodate more current-carrying lithium ions in the battery.

Now the company is bringing its products to the market for the first time, providing some anode powders for upcoming batteries. Ouch 4.0, a fitness wearable device. This is a small device, but it may be a big step forward in the battery field. In the battery field, promising laboratory results often fail to translate into commercial success.

“Look at Whoop 4.0 as our Tesla Roadster,” Sila’s CEO Gene Berdichevsky said, as Tesla’s seventh employee, he helped solve some of the key battery challenges of the company’s first electric car. “This is indeed the first on the market to prove this breakthrough. device of. “

Cells produced using Sila’s silicon-based particles.

Syrah

The company’s materials, with the help of other advanced technologies, have increased the energy density of fitness tracker batteries by approximately 17%. This is a significant improvement in a field that usually advances a few percentage points per year.

Carnegie Mellon University’s associate professor of mechanical engineering Venkat Viswanathan said that this is equivalent to about four years of standard progress, “but it’s just a big leap.”

Sila still faces some real technical challenges, but this progress is a promising sign that as the danger of climate change accelerates, more and more powerful batteries have the potential to help the world get rid of fossil fuels. Increasing the energy that batteries can store can make it easier for cleaner power sources to power more of our buildings, vehicles, factories, and businesses.

For the transportation sector, higher-energy-density batteries can reduce costs or expand the range of electric vehicles, and solve the two biggest problems that hinder consumers from giving up high fuel consumption. It also promises to provide grid batteries that can save more energy from solar and wind farms or consumer gadgets that last longer between charges.

Berdichevsky said that energy density is the key to the “electrification of everything.” Innovators under 35 In 2017.

In terms of new fitness wearable devices, novel battery materials and other improvements have allowed Boston-based Whoop to shrink the device by 33% while maintaining a 5-day battery life. The product is now thin enough to be inserted into “smart clothing” or worn like a watch. It will go on sale on September 8.

Sila announced US$590 million in funding In January, it also established partnerships with automakers such as BMW and Daimler to develop battery materials for automakers. The company has stated that its technology can eventually pack up to 40% of the energy into a lithium-ion battery.

Prevent fire

Berdichevsky interviewed before his senior year at Stanford University and found a job at Tesla, where he was studying for a degree in mechanical engineering. He ultimately played a key role in addressing the company’s potential survival risks: a fire in any one of the thousands of batteries loaded into the vehicle would ignite the entire battery pack.

He established a program to systematically evaluate a series of battery pack designs. After hundreds of tests, the company has developed a combination of battery layout, heat transfer materials, and cooling channels to prevent out-of-control fires to a large extent.

After Tesla launched the Roadster, Berdichevsky felt that he had to commit another five years to witness the company through the development of the next model Model S—or take this opportunity to try new things.

In the end, he decided to build his own thing.

Gene Berdichevsky, CEO and co-founder of Sila.

David Paul Morris/Sira

Berdichevsky returned to Stanford to pursue a master’s program in materials, thermodynamics, and physics, hoping to find a way to improve storage at the basic level. After graduation, he worked as a resident entrepreneur at Sutter Hill Ventures for a year, looking for ideas that could form the basis of his business.

During that time, he encountered a science Paper Identify a method for producing silicon-based particles for lithium-ion battery anodes.

For a long time, researchers have regarded silicon as a promising way to increase battery energy, because by weight, silicon atoms can combine with 10 times more lithium ions than graphite. This means that they have more charged molecules that generate current in the battery. But silicon anodes tend to break during charging because they expand to accommodate ions that shuttle back and forth between the electrodes.

This paper co-authored by Georgia Institute of Technology professor Gleb Yushin emphasizes the possibility of developing rigid silicon materials with porous cores Easily accept and release lithium ions.

The following year, Berdichevsky co-founded Sila with Yushin and another former Tesla engineer, Alex Jacobs.

Obstacles and delays

The company adjusted its methods and materials over the next decade, expanding its manufacturing capabilities while conducting more than 50,000 chemical iterations. In the early days, it decided to develop plug-in materials that can be replaced by lithium-ion battery manufacturers, instead of pursuing a more expensive and riskier route to self-produce complete batteries.

However, Sila is not as far away as originally hoped.

After receiving millions of dollars from the ARPA-E division of the U.S. Department of Energy, the company once told research institutions that its materials may be used in products in 2017 and in automobiles by 2020. In 2018, when Sila announced a deal with BMW, it said that by 2023, its pellets could help the German automaker’s electric cars provide power.

Berdichevsky said the company now expects to enter the automotive sector “more like 2025.” He said that solving the “last mile” problem was more difficult than they expected. Challenges include working with battery manufacturers to obtain the best performance from new materials.

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

Whoop News shows that Sila can design particles in a way that provides benchmarks for safety, life cycle, and other battery performance, similar to those achieved by existing products.



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