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Silicon Vitality Storage Will get $10 Million Love Letter From US DOD

The US Division of Protection has been scouting for higher batteries to energy the electrified soldier of the long run. They’ve tapped new silicon know-how to ship lighter weight and longer lifespan. Leaving nothing to probability, the DOD additionally simply put down $10 million to assist safe a home provide chain for silicon-based vitality storage.

Onshoring & Scaling Up Silicon Vitality Storage Expertise

The vitality storage agency NanoGraf is the winner of the $10 million, 18-month contract. The cash is earmarked for the development of a brand new manufacturing unit in Chicago. As soon as in operation, it will likely be the primary high-volume manufacturing facility of its form within the US.

NanoGraf is aiming for an preliminary output of 35 US tons per 12 months of silicon oxide for battery anodes in the direction of a aim of 1,000 tons per 12 months when absolutely scaled up.

NanoGraf anticipates that its materials will price about the identical as graphite, which is presently the fabric of alternative for the anodes of lithium-ion batteries, however it’ll carry out significantly better.

The corporate got here throughout the CleanTechnica radar final 12 months, when it introduced  a $1.65 million award from the DOD to develop its 18650 battery.

“The grant from the DoD is supposed to develop silicon anode-based lithium-ion know-how that’s compatible with all portable batteries,” NanoGraf defined. “The aim is to extend tools runtime by 50-100% when in comparison with conventional graphite anode lithium-ion cells, and permit batteries to have a shelf lifetime of greater than two years and function throughout a large temperature vary from -4° F to 131° F.”

That challenge concerned NanoGraf’s transportable 3.8Ah (amp hours) 18650 battery, which went into industrial manufacturing earlier this 12 months.

NanoGraf additionally additionally has another $1 million DOD grant below its umbrella to develop a 4.3Ah model.

“In an business the place efficiency enhancements are sometimes very small, the 4.3Ah might be a dramatic improve in vitality density reaching 870Wh/L,” NanoGraf defined. For that battery, the corporate is Q2 of 2024 for top quantity manufacturing resulting in discipline use by the tip of the 12 months.

Why Silicon?

The silicon battery has been a very long time coming. A small share of silicon by weight can be utilized in graphite batteries, however breaking by means of to a real silicon battery has been a troublesome row to hoe.

Preliminary work on NanoGraf’s silicon anode started greater than 10 years in the past, on the Division of Vitality’s Argonne Nationwide Laboratory and Northwestern College in Illinois. NanoGraf began up in 2012 below the identify SiNode Techniques.

The Argonne lab is a part of a silicon battery consortium with the Lawrence Berkeley, Renewable Vitality, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia nationwide laboratories to “surmount the limitations related to growth of a complicated anode based mostly on silicon-carbon electrodes.”

“Silicon is a really enticing various to graphitic carbon alone as a result of its a lot increased theoretical capability for vitality storage, almost an order of magnitude extra per gram, and relative availability as a result of its use worldwide in numerous industries,” Argonne explains. “Nonetheless, in electrodes with bigger quantities of elemental silicon (about 15 p.c) and thus a lot increased vitality density, a number of issues severely restrict the calendar life.”

The Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory gives illustration of the long R&D tail main as much as industrial growth of silicon-based vitality storage. CleanTechnica caught up with the lab in December of 2020.

“As early as 2010 PNNL was plotting the demise of the graphite anode for EV batteries, with an help from silicon,” we noticed. “In 2014 a staff of PNNL researchers created a silicon “sponge” fortified with carbon to interchange graphite.”

A more moderen breakthrough got here within the spring of 2020, when Argonne introduced enhancements to the sponge-like architecture.

Higher Vitality Storage For Electrical Autos

Along with use within the transportable vitality storage space, silicon has additionally caught the attention of EV producers.

Again in 2019, Nanograf gained a $7.5 million award from the US Council for Automotive Analysis consortium, which on the time consisted of Ford, Normal Motors, and the Fiat Chrysler Cars group. Below the new-ish identify of Stellantis, the FCA group of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and FIAT remains to be a part of the consortium.

The US Division of Vitality has additionally been disbursing grants for silicon battery development alongside a raft of different applied sciences aimed toward improving EV battery performance.

Final October, GM upped the ante by partaking in a first-of-its-kind collaboration with one other US agency, aimed toward bringing silicon nanowire technology into the auto maker’s Ultium EV battery household.

The Electrified Military Of The Future

The US Military is a good distance off from electrifying its vehicles, however transportable electronics have been a function of warfare for generations, and the DOD has been on the hunt for new technologies that lighten the vitality storage load.

One key breakthrough lately is a versatile battery pack that may be worn on a vest. The so-named Conformal Wearable Battery can present energy for a number of linked gadgets.

The subsequent step is to simplify the battery provide chain for gadgets that aren’t linked to the CWB. Silicon batteries will assist resolve a part of the issue, however that also leaves the Military with longstanding interoperability points.

Final 12 months, the Military drew consideration to the necessity for a more streamlined approach to vitality storage, with a deal with weaponry in addition to radios, GPS, and night-vision gadgets.

The trouble is spearheaded by the Military Futures Command, below the acronym STUB for Small Tactical Common Battery. The aim is to create a set of eight completely different sizes of batteries, all with the identical interfaces.

“Now’s an opportune time to standardize energy sources because the Military is prioritizing modernization and fielding electronics with better capabilities requiring extra vitality than present methods,” defined Dr. Nathan Sharpes, who’s a analysis mechanical engineer with a department of AFC’s Fight Capabilities Improvement Command (DEVCOM).

“The aim is to keep away from the present mannequin of fielding a proprietary battery for each bit of drugs as know-how builders have traditionally delivered distinctive batteries for brand new capabilities,” the Military emphasised. “Every battery measurement gives a unique quantity of vitality, from which Troopers may select, relying on their mission wants. This interoperable battery system will seamlessly ship the proper voltage and energy stage must any gadget.”

“At present when a Soldier is on a mission carrying 5 completely different items of drugs that every have a singular battery type issue, together with spares, that’s further weight and objects to maintain monitor of,” Sharpes added. “With this household of interoperable batteries, Troopers will see advantages cognitively and bodily.”

Along with in-field benefits, the Military anticipates that its procurement and logistics prices will drop. The Military additionally expects that tools producers will be capable of focus extra time and vitality on enhancing the efficiency of their gadgets.

Within the meantime, don’t surrender on EVs for the Military simply but. Final March, the Military Reserve introduced its intention to electrify all of its non-tactical vehicles by the tip of Fiscal Yr 27. The US protection contractor Oshkosh can be pushing the EV envelope, which may imply more electric vehicles are in retailer below the corporate’s contract with the US Postal Service.

Comply with me on Twitter @TinaMCasey (for now).

Discover me on LinkedIn: @TinaMCasey or Mastodon: @Casey or Put up:  @tinamcasey

Picture: Soldier demonstrates wearable vitality storage, courtesy of US Army.




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