Team
Jeff Sakamoto – Professor, Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan
Travis Thompson – Research Fellow, Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan

 

Project Stage: Device proof of concept in the University
Industry: Medical Devices, Military, Ground Robotics, IoT, Electronics, Sensors, Oil/Gas, Wearables

Funding: $5.36M total

  • $4.3M Translational research and prototyping (Arpa-E and U.S.- China Clean Energy Research Center)
  • $345k Market research and business development (University of Michigan and Arpa-E)
  • $720k Basic Research (Department of Energy, Battery Materials Research program)

Problem: Large-scale deployment of electric vehicles requires higher energy density, lower cost, and safer batteries than are currently available. In general, Li-ion battery research is focused on the development of high capacity cells consisting of advanced electrodes and state-of-the-art (SOA) liquid electrolytes. An alternative approach involves replacing liquid electrolytes with a non-flammable ceramic electrolyte enabling all solid-state batteries that offer unprecedented safety and durability.

However, finding a single material to simultaneously meet all of the requirements needed from a solid electrolyte is difficult. A recent material break-through identifies a suitable solid electrolyte and enables a new class of batteries: bulk scale solid-state batteries (SSB).

Solution: Solid state batteries in thin film formats have been demonstrated and are in various stages of commercialization. Despite attractive features, the development of a bulk scale SSB product has not been demonstrated. The primary challenge associated with SSB is the development of new manufacturing techniques for SSB at a bulk scale. The Sakamoto group at the University of Michigan was the first group in the United States to work on this class of materials and has been performing fundamental research for the past 7 years. Recent technical progress has indicated that bulk scale ceramics processing of these materials is feasible.

Competitive advantage: Thin film batteries are similar to bulk scale SSB but are manufactured from vacuum vapor deposition. This type of processing limits the rate at which cells can be manufactured and the total capacity available. In contrast, the bulk scale SSB being developed targets high throughput ceramics manufacturing and will offer similar electrode loadings as Li-ion, overcoming the capacity limitations of thin film batteries.

Market Opportunity: Not only could SSB offer higher performance compared to Li-ion, but they could be used in many of the same applications. SSB can operate in high temperature environments in excess of 300C and can be exposed to high temperature processing steps. This feature enables use in measurement while drilling applications in the oil/gas industry and solder reflow processing in electronics manufacturing. Since SSB are inherently non- flammable and safe, there is no concern of fire or explosion. This safety feature could add value to implantable medical devices and automotive applications. A 4x higher energy density allows for 4x longer operation for the same volume. This feature could add value to volume constrained applications such as wearables, IoT, implantable medical devices, electronics, ground robotics, and automotive.

We wish to talk with potential early customers to better understand how batteries are used in their application. The

Key Risks: The key risk is technical execution. Proof of concept of each component has been demonstrated at the University. Now, the current stage is proof of concept of the device.