California startup Alumina Technologies has made the world’s first commercially viable lithium-ion battery that uses the atomic structure of the electron.
The company announced Tuesday that it has reached a $1 billion deal with GE Capital to help accelerate its efforts to make the technology commercially viable.
The Aluminum battery is a “solar-cell-type” battery that would charge electric vehicles using electricity generated from sunlight, rather than batteries that rely on an electrolyte made of metal salts or semiconductors.
That is, a battery that stores energy as a thin layer of electrons and releases it when it is needed.
In the battery, the electrons flow in a different direction than the electrons in an electrolytic cell.
The electrolyte, called an electrolytoid, has an electron-absorbing layer that absorbs sunlight and stores energy.
It then releases electrons when needed.
“We’ve shown that a silicon electrolyte can work as a solar-cell battery, which means it can provide the same level of energy storage as a lithium-based battery,” Alumino Technologies CEO Alex Shih told Business Insider.
“And it does so in a much smaller package, which is a huge advantage.”
The company has spent more than a decade trying to solve the problem.
“We’re not a large company,” Shih said, adding that it is the largest startup to develop a commercially viable solar-to-electrode battery.
“So we’re really trying to find a path to commercialize the technology.”
The battery uses the structure of a silver atom to store electricity, with the nucleus and a group of electrons in between.
It is composed of two electrodes arranged in a grid that is oriented in a way that the electrons can flow in any direction.
The electrodes are arranged in different ways to store different amounts of energy.
The electrode stack, or an atom of the material, can be layered over a solid electrolyte.
The silver atom sits between the electrodes.
When the metal ions are squeezed between the two electrodes, the electrolyte splits and releases electrons.
“It’s like putting an electric fence between two cars,” Shid said.
“The electrons can move in any directions.”
The product can be charged with electricity generated by a solar panel, a car battery, or a wind turbine.
Shih believes it could help companies like Tesla Motors make battery packs that store energy for longer periods of time.
The battery would have an output of 100 kilowatts, compared to 50 kilowatt-hours for a lithium ion battery.
“This is a way to increase the energy density of a battery to 10 to 20 times what we’re used to with lithium-iron-ion batteries,” Shuh said.
Shih said the company expects the technology to be commercially viable within the next five years.
Aluminos first commercialized the technology in the late 2000s.
“That’s a big jump in the road,” Shiod said.
He noted that there are about 300,000 patents for lithium-air batteries, of which only about a dozen have been submitted.
“There are so many things that have to go right for this to become commercial.”
He said the Alumins technology could be used to replace batteries that are made of other materials.
“These are a few of the materials that have been around for a while,” he said.
For the most part, battery batteries are made from lithium and iron, which have a much higher electrical resistance than other materials, making them less efficient.
But the technology could also be used for the construction of electric vehicles.
“You can take this one step at a time,” Shichih said.
Alums technology could eventually be integrated into vehicles, but it would need to be used in a more integrated way.
“The main challenge for this is the efficiency of the electrode stack,” Shikih said of the lithium-sulfur-air battery.
He said the battery could be made of carbon or silicon, but “it needs to be as thin as possible to allow electrons to flow.”
Shih added that he hopes the company can prove the technology can deliver high-speed charging for up to 10 miles per hour in the battery.
It could also provide a way for electric vehicles to recharge their batteries, which would be much faster than conventional charging.
The electric vehicle industry could also benefit from the technology.
“This will be really big for us as a company,” he added.