Technology news platforms Axios and Futurism reported that Ionic Materials Inc., a US-based battery material developer, just received a massive US$65 million in funding from investors that included South Korea’s Samsung Group and UK’s Dyson Inc. The fundraising showed that the two global technology giants have much confidence in Ionic Materials, which appears to be close in achieving technological breakthroughs with respect to the manufacturing of solid-state batteries.
Established in 1986, Ionic Materials during its early years was backed by William “Bill” Nelson Joy, the co-founder of Suns Microsystems Inc. and a well-known figure in the Silicon Valley. In this February, Ionic Materials completed its Series C fundraising and reached an enormous US$65 million in investments. While the investors have not been formally announced, sources have confirmed that the investor group included Samsung and Dyson. Another major participant in the fundraising was Alliance Ventures – a newly formed venture capital fund jointly controlled by automakers Renault S.A., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
The technology being developed by Ionic Materials and backed by Joy is a type of solid-state alkaline batteries. Alkaline batteries, including rechargeable ones, are already used in everyday products such as flashlights and remote controls. Ionic Materials wants to make them more powerful for applications such as electric vehicles, grid energy storage, and residential energy storage. Furthermore, Ionic Materials is betting on the solid-state battery design because it is much safer compared with the current versions of lithium-ion batteries. Although Ionic Materials stated that it will take around five years for their technology to reach commercialization, the company is already demonstrating the extraordinary advantages of their prototype batteries in promotional videos. In one of these videos, a prototype battery keeps working even after it has been hit by a bullet fired from a gun.
According to the reporting by Futurism, Ionic Materials has created a solid polymer material that can replace the solvent-based electrolyte that is common in lithium-ion batteries. The company’s research team said that they have made three unique technological breakthroughs in solid-state battery design. First and most surprisingly, the researchers at Ionic Materials assert that lithium ions can actually move fast, if not faster, in a solid electrolyte than in a liquid electrolyte. This particular claim is contrary to the physics of ions. Generally, ions should encounter greater resistance when moving through a solid material than through a liquid. If proven correct, the research by Ionic Materials could bring about a revolution in the design and manufacturing of solid-state batteries.
The other two breakthroughs announced by Ionic Materials are that their solid polymer electrolyte can operate at five volts and at room temperature. Previous research on solid-state batteries placed the optimal operational temperature of potential electrolyte materials at a higher level of 60 degrees Celsius.
The battery technology from Ionic Materials will have to go through numerous trials to validate its advantages. Once the technology has proven itself, its first commercial application will probably be smartphone batteries. Axios reported that many outside experts are still skeptical about the assertions made by Ionic Materials because the company has yet to provide the complete data from their research. Nevertheless, this new material appears to possibly break a huge technological barrier that has limited advances in the battery industry. Investment deals such as the Series C fundraising for Ionic Materials also indicates that solid-state batteries for different applications may soon be on the horizon.
(This article is an English translation of news content provided by EnergyTrend’s media partner TechNews. The image at the top of the article comes is a screen capture of a promotion video for Ionic Materials Inc.)