Liquid-solid battery electrolyte technology licensed exclusively to Safire

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has licensed battery electrolyte technology exclusively to Safire Technology Group. The collection of five patented technologies is designed for an instant additive for lithium-ion batteries that prevents explosions and impact fires.

Safire, a battery technology startup formerly known as BTRY, plans to locate facilities in East Tennessee as part of its plan to commercialize liquid-solid battery technology.

“Improving battery technology is key to building a clean energy future for our country,” said Susan Hubbard, ORNL’s deputy for science and technology. “This technology has implications for multiple industries, ultimately making battery systems safer, more efficient and more stable.”

The possibility of battery cells catching fire or exploding when impacted – such as in a car accident – and causing property loss, serious injury or death is a major challenge in the adoption of battery technology. for electric vehicles and aircraft, such as 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 upon impact.

In a lithium-ion battery, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes. If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer breaks, the electrodes may come into contact and cause the battery liquid electrolyte to ignite. In SAFIRE, the electrolyte solidifies on 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 move towards electric vehicles,” said John Lee, co-founder and CEO of Safire. “The additive is easy to integrate into existing battery manufacturing processes and provides users with a safer, lighter and more efficient alternative to conventional battery protection, resulting in higher performance and lower total cost. of lower possession.”

In defense applications, the technology provides protection against projectiles and ballistics while reducing the weight of defense systems and equipment.

Lee and Mike Grubbs, the other co-founder of Safire, are also partnering with government agencies and industry to develop technology for electric vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, of airplanes, electric bikes and vehicles. other lithium-ion powered equipment.

“This announcement further strengthens our long-term collaboration with ORNL and allows us to begin commercial testing,” Grubbs said at a Nov. 15 licensing event at ORNL. “We are also exploring new partnerships and identifying prototyping opportunities with automotive, e-bike and eVTOL manufacturers.”

ORNL’s Gabriel Veith, the inventor of SAFIRE, has been working to develop and improve battery technology since 2014. Veith has been named in two R&D 100 awards, including one for SAFIRE. The development team also includes ORNL colleagues Beth Armstrong, Hsin Wang, Sergiy Kalnaus, Katie Browning and Kevin Cooley.

“The best part of working at ORNL is the team environment. This team is made up of a rheologist, a ceramist, an electrochemist, mechanical experts, materials testers – everyone who makes this technology work,” Veith said. “It’s not the work of just one person – teamwork has allowed us this truly unique opportunity. Having a diversity of people, experiences and backgrounds really helps to develop ideas.

SAFIRE was originally funded by the ORNL Seed Money program, and the project continued under the 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 venture company program dedicated to advancing deep technology.

Safire plans to start developing prototypes with strategic partners. Parties interested in testing the technology or partnering with Safire should email partners@safire.co.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the largest support of basic physical science research in the United States. The Office of Science strives to meet some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.

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