ActaCell, Inc., a start-up company based in Austin, Texas, was one of the nine companies that was awarded funding by the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST announced a total of more than $22million in funding for nine research projects targeting innovative manufacturing technologies in fields ranging from biopharmaceuticals and electronics to renewable energy sources and energy storage. Funded by NIST's Technology Innovation Program, the awards will be matched by other funding sources and are expected to result in an estimated $46 million in new advanced manufacturing research over the next three years.
ActaCell lans to develop technology necessary to scale up production of the company's novel nanocomposite material for high-performance lithium batteries by a factor of a thousand, potentially enabling "safe, powerful and economical batteries for electric vehicles and other demanding applications." The overall funding for the three year project is expected to be a little over $6 million. ActaCell’s first cell chemistry incorporates a proprietary stabilized manganese spinel cathode material, which solves the calendar and cycle life challenges associated with Mn Spinel while maintaining the high power and safety characteristics of the Spinel native material.
The reason for the new cathode material is that whuke lithium-ion batteries could be an excellent choice for large energy storage applications such as plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EV), they face several technical challenges, principally related to achieving a high level of safety while maintaining a low cost.
One of the primary safety issues in current lithium-ion batteries is related to the use of graphite as the battery's anode and the electrochemical interaction between the graphite anode and the electrolyte. ActaCell has developed a novel nanocomposite anode material, based on research at the University of Texas at Austin, which greatly reduces the reactivity of the anode under abusive conditions.
The ActaCell anode material also is, in principle, significantly less expensive to produce. To be commercially viable, ActaCell must be able to scale up the production of its nanocomposite anode material from the current laboratory batches of about 5 grams to 5 kilograms economically. To achieve this, the company proposes to use a technique called Reactive High Energy Milling (RHEM) that drives a chemical reaction via the use of a high energy reactive milling in one single reaction scheme. Commercial scale use of RHEM is untried in the lithium battery industry, and is complicated by a number of process variables that are not expected to scale uniformly, but is critical to keep the processing and overall materials cost low.
The scale-up of this synthesis process will be a key innovation not only in the lithium-ion battery industry, but also as a low-cost manufacturing technique for other related materials. These combined innovations are key to advancing adoption of large-scale energy storage, offering potential transformation of both the automotive and electric utility sectors. Develop technology necessary to scale up production of the company's novel nanocomposite material for high-performance lithium batteries by a factor of a thousand, potentially enabling safe, powerful and economical batteries for electric vehicles and other demanding applications.
ActaCell recently built out of a 425sq ft dry room for production and continued work on pilot line manufacturing progress toward production. ActaCell says it has beaten company technical milestone targets by over 200% through work with an industry partner to scale up manufacture of its proprietary Li-Ion chemistry.
ActaCell was formed in 2007 by exclusively licensing Li-Ion technologies developed at the University of Texas at Austin Material Sciences Program by Professor Arumugam Manthiram. Initial venture capital investors in ActaCell include DFJ Mercury, Good Energies, Google.org and Applied Ventures.
A recent patent awarded to Actacell, Cation-Substituted Spinel Oxide and Oxyfluoride Cathodes for Lithium Ion Batteries involves "compositions and methods of making cation-substituted and fluorine-substituted spinel cathode compositions by firing a LiMn2−y−zLiyMzO4 oxide with NH4HF2 at low temperatures of between about 300 and 700° C for 2 to 8 hours and a η of more than 0 and less than about 0.50, mixed two-phase compositions consisting of a spinel cathode and a layered oxide cathode, and coupling them with unmodified or surface modified graphite anodes in lithium ion cells."
Caption: General crystal structure of spinel (not the Actacell-specific variety).
This blog is focused on trends in battery technology and other types of energy storage that are used for smart grid load leveling and stabilization, and as back-up power for renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics/solar power, hydro and wind energy. Trends in lithium ion batteries, lead-acid, metal-air, NaS (sodium sulfur), ZnBr (zinc-bromine) batteries will be covered, as well as compressed air energy storage (CAES), flywheels, fuel cells and supercapacitors.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
ActaCell Wins $3M NIST Award for Li-Ion Battery Cathode Development
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