The battery breakthrough
Better batteries could be a crucial part of developing renewable technology and halting climate change – and two US university graduates have made progress in that important quest.
Californian startup Cuberg, founded in 2015 with the aim of making a battery breakthrough, – released a video showing a battery it had developed keeping a drone flying for almost double the time as a conventional one. The drone, powered by a standard lithium-ion battery, lasted 17 minutes, whereas the battery developed by Cuberg, which weighed the same, lasted more than 27 minutes.
Why better batteries are needed
Better batteries than we have now – more lightweight, with more capacity, and without the high flammability associated with lithium-ion batteries – will be crucial to wider adoption of solar and wind power. In order to be fully effective, these technologies need somewhere to store surplus energy. They would also enable electric planes and cars to fly or drive for longer.
The problem, says company CEO Dr Richard Wang, is that batteries no long store the necessary energy to power the technology of the future. They’re also at risk of degradation from high temperatures and a present a hazard risk if used improperly.
Cuberg is developing a solid electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries, which it says would increase – possibly double – their energy capacity and eliminate flammability, instability at high temperatures and dendrites – little strands of lithium which can form inside the battery and cause a short circuit.They also believe the batteries will better retain their ability to hold their charge long-term.
Steve Nordlund, vice-president of Boeing Horizon X, which supports new business ventures, said: “Cuberg’s battery technology has some of the highest energy density we’ve seen in the marketplace, and its unique chemistries could prove to be a safe, stable solution for electric air transportation.”
Success in the face of failure
If the pair succeed, they will be doing so where many others have failed. As the TomKat Centre put it: “The hunt for better batteries has a history of failed businesses – flickers of ideas that blazed and fizzled within a few short years, hundreds of millions of dollars invested and lost.”
John Goodenough, who pioneered the lithium-ion battery, is working on the improvement of batteries too. Leading a team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, he’s trying to develop a solid-glass-electrolyte battery which he hopes would solve the same problems that Cuberg face.
Companies in the UK that are involved in groundbreaking scientific or technological projects are eligible to benefit from the government’s r and d tax credit scheme. Designed to support innovation, it encourages businesses to push the boundaries of research. Here at R&D Tax Solutions, we specialise in helping companies make successful R&D tax claims. Have a look at our r&d tax credits calculator for an estimate of how much you could claim, and call our Manchester office to see how we can help.