Startup SolidEnergy promises to double smartphone battery life in 2017 with ‘Gen 3 Li-Metal’

A 2015 prototype from SolidEnergy shows the company's battery compared with an iPhone 6 battery.

A startup founded in 2012 and spinning out of MIT promises its new “ultra-high energy density ‘anode free’ battery” technology can double smartphones’ battery life. The company said it expects to begin offering its technology to smartphone makers as early as next year.

Profiled in a recent MIT News article, SolidEnergy was founded by MIT students looking to improve the performance of the standard lithium ion batteries that are used in consumer electronics, drones, electric cars and other devices.

The publication noted that SolidEnergy’s technology basically replaced the graphite in standard lithium ion batters with thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil. The company said that approach allows the battery to hold more ions, and therefore to provide more energy capacity.

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“Chemical modifications to the electrolyte also make the typically short-lived and volatile lithium metal batteries rechargeable and safer to use,” MIT News’ Rob Matheson wrote. “Moreover, the batteries are made using existing lithium ion manufacturing equipment, which makes them scalable.”

Specifically, SolidEnergy last year created a prototype battery that is half the size of the lithium ion battery used in an iPhone 6 but offers more charge  – 2.0 amp hours versus the 1.8 amp hours provided by the phone’s standard lithium ion battery.

Interestingly, SolidEnergy refined its technology and manufacturing approach by renting the manufacturing facilities in Waltham, Massachusetts – facilities initially built by A123 Systems, another MIT spinout developing battery technology that eventually filed for bankruptcy.

MIT News noted SolidEnergy recently moved into new headquarters in Woburn, likely in part thanks to the $12 million the company raised earlier this year in a Series B funding round. The round was led by an unnamed “major” U.S. auto company, and syndicated by SAIC, Applied Ventures, LLC, and all existing investors who participated in the company’s Series A round.

“The commercialization roadmap for SolidEnergy’s anode-free battery touches several markets, including drones, watches & wearables, smartphones and electric vehicles,” SolidEnergy wrote on its website. “The sequence increases in both market size and entry difficulty. Drones and watches & wearables value high energy density but have relatively small capacity and are great beachheads to test a new battery technology. Smartphones and electric vehicles value scale and cost in addition to high energy density, and demand much higher capacity, but are fertile markets in which to build a large company in the long term.”

The company said it will introduce its materials for drones this year, for smartphones in 2017 and for electric vehicles in 2018.

Of course, SolidEnergy isn’t the only company looking to improve battery life in consumer electronics. Indeed, Samsung Electronics' researchers last year unveiled a new process for constructing Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries that they said could almost double the life of the power sources for smartphones and electric cars.

For more:
- see this MIT News article

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