March 4, 2010 | 25 Comments
Planar Energy has received the official confirmation of engineering samples performance from the University of Central Florida that verify the company’s internal tests. Scott Faris, President and CEO of Planar Energy says, “This fundamental materials breakthrough, coupled with our proprietary low-cost manufacturing process, will render traditional chemical batteries obsolete.” Bold words . . .
“It will allow solid state battery fabrication that will enable manufacturers to increase their capacity by 200-to-300 percent, while reducing costs more than 50 percent. This is what the automotive industry needs to make electric vehicles practical and affordable,” he continued. There is meat on these bones.
Planar Energy is a developer of large-format, solid-state batteries co-founded by Scott Faris, who is a serial entrepreneur, and Battelle Ventures in 2007 as a spin-out of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Planar’s products are based upon a portfolio of patents in the areas of materials deposition, new materials and battery design technologies. This is not to be taken lightly. It seems Planar Energy has developed a new generation of inorganic solid-state electrolyte and electrode materials along with a proprietary manufacturing process called “Streaming Protocol for Electroless Electrochemical Deposition,” or SPEED.
Planar is describing SPEED as a low-cost, high-speed, roll-to-roll deposition process, which is significantly more flexible and scalable than existing deposition methods. This eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming vacuum deposition usually required for inorganic films. It also produces energy storage films that are significantly superior to slurry and polymer-based films used in traditional chemical batteries.
SPEED uses water-based precursors, allows for the direct growth of self-assembled films directly on flexible substrates or directly on top of other films. The film growth is done under ambient conditions and with growth rates exceeding 1 micron/minute over large surface areas. The SPEED-deposited films can range from single element films or complex inorganic chemistries with excellent stoichiometry. The process is compatible with a large array of known compound materials systems and it enables use of entirely new compound materials not workable in vacuum or slurry-coating processes. As an example, Planar Energy’s proprietary electrolytes are based upon unique chemistries that cannot be achieved in vacuum deposition.
- Planar Energy has identified a new class of solid-state electrolytes that have conductivity of 10-4 in measured samples and 10-3 in functional battery calculations. The conductivity ranges displayed allow for high-rate batteries required in automotive applications.
- Planar Energy’s solid-state electrolyte materials are deposited as thin films directly on active layers in the battery, eliminating the historic process of having to deposit films on separate substrates and then mechanically joining them.
- Planar Energy’s electrolytes demonstrate the same performance level of liquid electrolytes currently used by the lithium-ion industry, but they are in a solid form factor.
- Planar Energy’s change in form factor simplifies the battery manufacturing process and enables existing battery chemistries to function at 95% of their theoretical value.
- Planar Energy’s batteries will be intrinsically safe, allowing customers to further reduce packaging requirements, as well as simplify the battery management system.
- Planar Energy’s batteries have virtually no self-discharge, allowing them to sit for long periods of time while retaining their charge. Traditional lithium-ion batteries have high discharge rates that are problematic for automotive applications.
This is an impressive listing. While not directly addressing the 2 to 3 times the energy built at half the price, the technology transfer is yielding results.
Notable in the industry is that Japanese firms have roll to roll production technology on line now, but not at the performance Planar is claiming. The “how” looks fully doable. Roll to roll techniques are gaining market share in solar panels as well.
The questions are in the electrolytes, the connections, anode and cathode materials and designs and a host of construction matters over the course of building a battery. That area is where the meaningful questions lay.
If it all can go to scale, then the signaling to the market will have to crack the market itself wide enough for mass production. With Faris on board and a list of awards and acclaims, getting the attentions seems assured.
Faris seems bent on getting to a 75% cost reduction with the 2 to 3 fold capacity increase. The capacity matter seems consistent across the limited and short period of online info this writer reviewed for back grounding this post. That implies the materials involved are part of the original technology transfer.
By any measure, if Planar and Faris can get production costs down 75%, it won’t be ”hard to do marketing”. Lots of work remains, building prototypes, testing, looking into any heat issues, getting cycling results, lifespan expectations, and identifying markets with needs.
A lithium ion battery that’s physically lighter by two thirds, offered at half or perhaps 25% the price of competitive batteries bodes well for the firm’s chances – and much less expensive consumer products.