Smartphones, smartwatches, cameras, autonomous vehicles, drones, and smart home gadgets—these technologies are replete with countless advancements. But the one thing that powers all of these—namely, the humble battery—is behind the times.
There hasn’t been any significant innovation in commercial and industrial batteries, only controversies, such as Samsung Galaxy Note 7s exploding or the excessive battery drain from the iOS 11.4 update. However, the tech industry is now seeing a bold breakthrough in batteries via battery specialist—Sila Nanotechnologies. This company has just received $70 million in funding.
The Battery Specialist and High Profile Investment
Sila Nanotechnologies announced on August 16, 2018, that it had raised $70 million in Series D Funding, led by private equity company, Sutter Hill Ventures. This round of funding saw the involvement of titan tech companies. Such titans include Siemens-backed Next47 and Amperex Technology Limited, which makes batteries for Apple and Samsung smartphones. The battery specialist has raised a total of $125 million from its group of investors—Bessemer Venture Partners, Chengwei Capital, In-Q-Tel, Matrix Partners, and Samsung.
“Changes in battery chemistry are generational, and Sila Nanotechnologies is bringing the next one to market,” said managing director of Sutter Hill Ventures, Mike Speiser. “Sila has solved the hard scientific and engineering problems and is ready to rapidly scale up manufacturing to meet the enormous demand for better batteries.”
He added that they support companies that solve global problems—from providing strong batteries for wearables, pocket devices, vehicles, and even grid infrastructure.
Investors believe that Sila Nanotechnologies has the right technology and the right team to improve energy density and life cycle. Batteries are instrumental to all electric devices and machinery, but current technology has not kept up with the advancements of today. The battery specialist knows there has to be critical innovation in the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries.
The Battery Specialist on Innovating the Battery
Sila Nanotechnologies CEO Gene Berdichevsky was Tesla employee number seven, an instrumental figure in its early days. He helped develop some of the first batteries for the Tesla Roadster. One of Tesla’s earlier problems was that their Li-ion batteries caught fire more often than they anticipated. Berdichevsky’s solution was to combine heat transfer materials, cooling channels, and battery arrangements so fires would be efficiently contained.
Since departing from Tesla, he has started his own company, Sila Nanotechnologies. The mission is to engineer products that dramatically increase the energy density of batteries to power smaller, lighter, and more durable electronic devices and vehicles. However, Li-ion batteries can only hold so much energy. They are also highly flammable and may not always fit different devices’ form factors.
Sila Nanotechnologies developed silicon-based nanoparticles that form high-capacity anodes. Berdichevsky said that an atom of silicon stores about 20 times more lithium than carbon atoms. As it takes fewer atoms to store lithium, batteries can have a smaller volume of material that stores the same amount of energy.
Sila Nanotechnologies’ batteries are robust and porous enough to take any swelling that affects Li-ion batteries. This fact promises stronger, longer-lasting batteries.
Using silicon instead of graphite for the battery’s anodes also reduces costs and drives up efficiency by 40 percent. If the batteries use 20 percent fewer cells, production costs also drop by 20 percent.
Sila Nanotechnologies, the Leading the New Era of Batteries
Sila Nanotechnologies has been working under the radar until now. However, with its recent round of funding, it’s hard not to take note of the company. Earlier this year, the battery specialist announced a partnership with BMW—for whom it will provide lithium-silicon batteries. BMW expects to incorporate the Sila Nanotechnologies batteries into their vehicles by 2030, potentially increasing their battery capacity by 10 to 15 percent.
The world is anticipating the new improvements in battery technology. Additionally, when these improvements are rolled out to the public, electronics will become cheaper and will have fewer issues about battery life. Finally, through Sila Nanotechnologies, batteries are pushing boundaries in the tech world.