Owing to its impressive properties, graphene is now being considered as the first-choice material for the development of the next generation of batteries that will be powering consumer electronics and electric vehicles. The recent growth in the demand for graphene products has also led to the formation of startups that aim to be the major suppliers in this newly emerged market. One of them, Nanotech Energy Inc., announced on May 18 that it has raised US$27.5 million in a Series C fundraising round. Based in the US state of California, Nanotech has been manufacturing graphene-based materials for various applications. However, it sets itself apart from other competitors in the field of energy storage. According to the company’s official statement on its latest fundraising activity, the capital will be directed to the development of new products and the scale-up of operations.
Since its establishment in 2014, Nanotech has been focusing much of its R&D efforts on the application of graphene in batteries. As a new wonder material, graphene has several attributes that make it particularly suitable for battery components. Besides being non-flammable and flexible, graphene also has high energy density and high conductivity. It thus can play a key role in making rechargeable batteries last longer and charge faster. Recognizing these benefits early on, Nanotech has geared its activities toward the energy storage sector.
Jack Kavanaugh, chairman and CEO of Nanotech, said he is confident that the products from his company can make a huge impact across different end-user markets and whole industries. As for the proceeds for the Series C fundraising, they will be used to significantly expand the company’s production capacity and develop specialty products. Some of the innovative graphene-based solutions that Nanotech is working on include conductive epoxy, conductive ink, and spray paint that blocks electromagnetic interference.
Richard Kaner, a chemistry professor at UCLA, said in the company’s press release that graphene has the perfect trifecta of durability, flexibility, and conductivity. It can tolerate high temperatures as well as changes in current during charging and discharging. Kaner added that the adoption of graphene in batteries helps lower the risk of an internal short circuit. This, in turn, improves the safety and performance of whole devices.
While Nanotech has clearly established that its “Graphene Super Battery” has the advantages of being non-flammable and capable of withstanding high temperatures. Its advertisements appear to overly exaggerate the fire risk of conventional lithium-ion batteries. Indeed, some of the videos and press materials from the company can be misconstrued as advocating against the adoption of electric vehicles. Too much emphasis on the fire risk of powertrain batteries, which have become much safer and powerful, might be counterproductive in the grand scheme of things.
While Nanotech like other startups is prone to hype up its products, it has Daimer—one of the world’s major car makers—as one of its main allies. Andreas Hintennach, head of Daimer’s battery research unit, said that three years ago Daimler requested Nanotech to create the safest non-flammable battery in the automotive industry. Nanotech not only provided such solution but also exceeded expectations with respect to battery performance.
The adoption of Nanotech’s graphene battery as a part of the powertrain system for a vehicle under the Mercedes-Benz brand would bring a new level of excitement and interest in the global market for electric vehicles. However, for this to actually happen, there have to be more opportunities in the future for graphene batteries to demonstrate that they are better than conventional lithium-ion batteries in terms of durability, cost, and range.
(News source: TechNews. Photo credit: Nanotech Energy.)