The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has exclusively licensed battery electrolyte technology to Safire Technology Group. The collection of five patented technologies is designed for a drop-in lithium-ion battery additive that prevents explosion and fire from impact.
Safire, a battery technology startup formerly known as BTRY, plans to establish facilities in East Tennessee as part of its plan to commercialize liquid-to-solid battery technology.
“Improving battery technology is critical to building a clean energy future for our country,” said Susan Hubbard, ORNL MP for Science and Technology. “This technology is impacting multiple industries and ultimately making battery systems safer, more efficient and more stable.”
The potential of battery cells to ignite or explode on impact – such as in a car crash – and cause property damage, serious injury or death is a major challenge in the introduction of battery technology for electric vehicles and aircraft, such as aircraft. B. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. ORNL’s Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte or SAFIRE technology eliminates this risk with a new electrolyte formulation that changes from liquid to solid on impact.
In a lithium-ion battery, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes. If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer fails, the electrodes may touch and the battery’s liquid electrolyte may catch fire. With SAFIRE, the electrolyte solidifies under impact, blocking contact between the electrodes.
The technology can significantly reduce vehicle weight and increase range by eliminating the need for heavy protective shielding around the battery.
“SAFIRE will transform the automotive industry, especially as we transition to electric vehicles,” said John Lee, Safire’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “The additive easily integrates into existing battery manufacturing processes, providing users with a safer alternative that is lighter and more effective than traditional battery protection, resulting in higher performance and lower total cost of ownership.”
In defense applications, the technology provides projectile and ballistic protection while reducing the weight of defense systems and equipment.
Lee and Mike Grubbs, the other co-founder of Safire, are also working with government agencies and industry to develop the technology for electric vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, airplanes, e-bikes and other Li-ion powered devices.
“This announcement further strengthens our long-term relationship with ORNL and allows us to begin commercial testing,” Grubbs said during a Nov. 15 licensing event at ORNL. “We are also exploring new partnerships and identifying prototyping opportunities with automotive, e-bike and eVTOL manufacturers.”
Gabriel Veith from ORNL, the inventor of SAFIRE, has been working on the development and refinement of the battery technology since 2014. Veith has received two R&D 100 awards, including one for SAFIRE. The development team also includes fellow ORNL members Beth Armstrong, Hsin Wang, Sergiy Kalnaus, Katie Browning and Kevin Cooley.
“The best thing about working at ORNL is the team environment. This team consists of a rheologist, a ceramist, an electrochemist, mechanics experts, material testers – all of this together makes this technology work,” said Veith. “This is not the work of one person – teamwork has given us this truly unique opportunity. Having a diversity of people, experiences and backgrounds really helps generate ideas.”
SAFIRE was originally funded by the ORNL Seed Money program and the project has continued under DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. The commercialization effort was supported by the lab’s Technology Innovation Program as well as FedTech’s Startup Studio, a program of venture firms dedicated to advancing deep tech.
Safire plans to start prototyping with strategic partners. Parties interested in testing the technology or collaborating with Safire should email email@example.com.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the largest single funder of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Visit energy.gov/science for more information.
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