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  • Recap - International Battery Seminar & Exhibit VIRTUAL
    Posted on 2020-08-04

  • Our key takeaway from this great event is that the secular growth of the battery industry continues. The crisis due to COVID-19 is expected to cause only a temporary slowdown during 2020 (for example by Avicenne Energy).
  • Diverging opinions exist regarding solid-state batteries. Speakers from large current Li-ion battery suppliers (such as Bob Gaylen, recently retired from CATL and Celina Mikolajczak, Panasonic) pointed out the high costs and significant time necessary to scale up production for a new technology to the scale of liquid electrolyte Li-ion batteries.
  • At the same time, many established automotive players (such as Toyota, VW, Hyundai/Kia, Ford, Daimler, BMW) see a chance in establishing increased vertical integration by bringing a solid-state battery technology to market, frequently in collaboration with startups.
  • b-science.net hosted the virtual breakout discussion on 'solid-state batteries - key technology approaches & time-to-market', in which insightful discussions took place between attendees from big corporations, startups and academia.
  • In parallel, improvements are being made regarding the incorporation of silicon-containing composite material anodes into existing liquid electrolyte Li-ion battery manufacturing processes (e.g. by Sila Nanotechnologies).
  • Prof. Whittingham (Nobel laureate in chemistry 2019) and Prof. Dahn pointed out opportunities and challenges with regards to high energy cathode materials, while Andrew Miller from Benchmark Minerals pointed out how resource bottlenecks could occur by 2026 regarding lithium, cobalt and potentially also nickel.
  • Further efforts towards increased energy density, reduced cobalt content in cathode materials and recycling are therefore crucial.
  • Webinar 'Solid-State Li-Ion Batteries – Key Technology Approaches & Time-to-Market'
    Posted on 2020-04-07, updated on 2020-06-05

  • PlugVolt (San Diego, USA) kindly hosted our webinar on June 3rd, 2020.
  • The recording is available (99 USD, 50 min presentation, 10 min Q&A).
  • Our presentation focused on the following topics:
    • Solid-state Li-ion batteries
    • Key innovation approaches & global patent literature
    • Time-to-market with respect to key applications: electronics/IoT, medical implants, automotive/rolling stock, stationary energy storage
    • Examples of solid electrolyte, cathode & anode selection
    • Combination of solid electrolytes with liquid electrolytes at the pack or cell level
  • Entries and Exits in the Supercapacitor Innovation Community
    Posted on 2020-03-09

  • Well-funded startups like Skeleton Technologies, Nanoramic/FastCAP, NAWATechnologies and large companies like CRRC, LG Chem/Innotek are entering the supercapacitor field with novel materials innovations that lay the basis for improved energy and power densities.
  • Murata Manufacturing and Panasonic are prominent companies that are withdrawing from the supercapacitor market to focus on Li-ion batteries, including solid-state Li-ion batteries.
  • While many new supercapacitor patents relate to cell and pack engineering to achieve improved reliability and production efficiency, high energy/power materials innovations remain crucial for the competitiveness and uniqueness of a technology platform.
  • For the long term market perspective of supercapacitors in automotive and stationary markets, a key question is whether high energy/low power solid-state Li-ion batteries will be combined with supercapacitors or with liquid electrolyte Li-ion batteries to achieve a satisfactory performance, safety and cost balance at system level.
  • More information can be found in our Supercapacitors Innovation & Patent Review.
  • Recap - Battery Technology Show in Coventry (UK)
    Posted on 2019-10-29

  • The Battery Technology Show covered a very nice mix of contributions on market forecasts along the supply chain along with technology outlooks, which were condensed into application requirements for niche and mass markets. It was very easy to get in touch with speakers and a variety of subject matter experts.
  • The presentation by ilika illustrated how solid-state microbatteries can already provide high added value in the area of IoT devices and medical implants. Co-funded by the Faraday institution, the Goliath program has been started by a consortium that consists of an OEM, ilika, a battery cell producer and a major academic institution. Automotive solid-state batteries with a pouch, stacked cell design will be developed. A bipolar cell architecture is also being considered as an option.
  • ZapGo presented on several collaborations in the area of supercapacitors, including with Oxford University (UK) from where patents have been licensed, with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA), in the area of grid storage with a partner in Norway, and in the area of ferries. A novel concept they pursue is the design of supercapacitors in the form of three-dimensional car parts for very tight integration, volume and weight savings (e.g. design of fenders with supercapacitor function).
  • The speaker from Airbus pointed out how very substantial battery improvements are still necessary for aerospace applications even while many electric aircraft development activities are already taking place. These battery improvements are very challenging because energy, power and safety simultaneously have to be improved beyond the state-of-the-art. Cells with >800 Wh/kg energy density are demanded to achieve a reach of >1,100 km with small all-electric aircrafts. Cost targets are likely relaxed as compared to the automotive sector. As a consequence, commercialization activities for new battery technologies in aerospace applications can be focused on first reaching performance targets at moderate production scales, based processes that are not yet fully optimized.
  • The presentation by Benchmark Minerals projected that the European Union will become the 2nd largest geographical hub behind China in terms of Li-ion battery cell production, albeit at 4-5 times smaller scale as compared to China.
  • In a conversation about fuel cells moderated by the Cleantech Group, representatives from ULEMco and 'Connect' emphasized that batteries and fuel cells will likely evolve in a complementary, non-competitive fashion, with fuel cells principally having favorable chances in the B2B sector where low downtime and backup power are required (e.g. ambulances, trains, trucks), while Li-ion batteries have an early lead in the B2C sector that will be hard to overcome for fuel cells because of the limited number of hydrogen charging stations.
  • Our talk on 'Next Generation Batteries - Solid-State & Silicon Anodes' was received with interest from OEM, startup, government funding and academic entities because we were able to identify key patent portfolios by companies that do not much publicize their battery R&D efforts (for example Medtronic in solid-state batteries). Key insights extracted from very large patent portfolios (e.g. by Toyota) were also appreciated, especially the discussion of advantages and disadvantages of different electrolytes (e.g. sulfides vs. garnet oxides vs. phosphates) and electrode materials (e.g. state-of-the art NMC vs. novel diphosphates).
  • Recap - Battery Japan in Tokyo
    Posted on 2019-03-07

  • The conference adjacent to Battery Japan in Tokyo once again provided excellent insights into ongoing R&D activities and market developments, thanks to simultaneous translations from Japanese to English.
  • Mr. Hideo Takeshita from B3 Corp. explained how market growth for Li-ion batteries continues in mobile/IT and xEV applications, while the ESS (stationary energy storage systems) market is growing as well, albeit from a smaller base. Li-ion batteries are starting to encroach on lead-acid batteries in automotive SLI (starting, lighting, ignition) and UPS (uninterruptible power supply) battery applications.
  • Both Mr. Takeshita and Mr. Yosikazu Watanabe from Tukushi Shigen Consul (TSC) do not believe lithium & cobalt supply will pose an insurmountable supply risk as the Li-ion battery industry grows further, because there are many new mining projects that will lead to increased lithium supply, and because cobalt content in cathode materials has already dropped to 5% for NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum) and to 15% for NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) materials.
  • A further highlight was the presentation by Dr. Shinji Nakanishi from the Advanced Material Engineering Division of Toyota, who illustrated how they modify interfaces in solid-state batteries with the help of advanced surface treatment processes. These processes can be applied to materials in bulk powder form rather than at device level. This leads to high process throughput at large scale and manageable costs. Solid electrolyte particles are deposited using a liquid coating process in the presence of a binder, which again, as a rule is more efficient and robust than powder compression & sintering in devices.
  • Toyota expects a higher energy density for solid-state batteries, but a low power density as compared to Li-ion batteries based on liquid electrolytes. Although high power densities are achievable with solid-state batteries, there are likely negative effects on longevity upon applying high currents (crack formation). The presentation by Toyota together with the targeted acquisition of Maxwell Technologies by Tesla supports our prediction from 2018 that supercapacitors will be combined with solid-state batteries in automotive and ESS systems.
  • Recap - Battery Technology Show in London
    Posted on 2018-11-13

  • Louis Brasington from the Cleantech Group has written an excellent recap of the roundtable discussion we joined at the Battery Technology Show in London. Promising technologies and startup companies are highlighted.
  • Recap - China International Battery Fair (CIBF) in Shenzhen
    Posted on 2018-05-26

  • With 1,250 exhibitors and ca. 40,000 visitors, the CIBF has been a tremendous opportunity to learn and engage with new and existing contacts. We thank the organizers for providing us with a favorable exhibition space in Hall 1.
  • On the streets of Shenzhen, it was apparent how electric vehicles have become increasingly abundant as compared to prior visits. This subjective impression is consistent with the fact that Shenzhen is the first city in the world that replaced its whole diesel bus fleet with electric buses.
  • After demonstrating a summary of our energy storage innovation & patent review to a three figure number of visitors at CIBF and The Battery Show Europe, we can state that individual visitors from large and small industry players confirmed our findings are of high interest and granularity. Nobody contested our observations, which we think further supports the validity of our machine learning based approach towards the global energy storage patent literature.
  • seif Impact Academy
    Posted on 2018-03-23

  • During the next five months, we will participate in the Zurich-based seif Impact Academy, which supports impact enterprises during the growth phase. Our coach is an IT security executive from the Swiss financial services industry.
  • Making Technology Less Manipulative
    Posted on 2018-03-09

  • In this thought-provoking Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders presentation, Tristan Harris (Time Well Spent) explains how Internet businesses that finance themselves through advertising employ machine learning techniques to attract users to spend as much time as possible on their site.
  • According to Tristan, if a user pays for a service on the Internet, the interests between the user and the service provider are better aligned towards solving a problem within the shortest time possible.
  • As it is our purpose to facilitate energy storage research, our target is that users spend as little time as necessary on our site to increase innovation productivity. Consequently, it is our intention to finance ourselves through user contributions rather than through advertising.
  • Commercialization of Battery Materials
    Posted on 2017-11-12

  • A recently published article by Prof. Vinayak Dravid from Northwestern University and coworkers very nicely illustrates the challenges of converting battery-related inventions demonstrated at the R&D bench level to real life applications.
  • A systematic framework is proposed based on observations from the pharmaceutical industry. Because battery performance is typically limited by interface effects, it is important to emphasize that the more different material combinations are tested at each successive technology readiness level, the higher is the likelihood that a battery material will be incorporated into a real life system.
  • Recap - The Battery Show North America in Novi (MI), USA
    Posted on 2017-09-17

  • Attendance at The Battery Show North America grew by more than 15% compared to 2016. Despite the rapid growth of this industry, the mood cannot be characterised as exuberant, presumably because of increasing competition along the battery supply chain.
  • Our booth was well-frequented by visitors who are interested in achieving better situational awareness in the rapidly evolving battery technology sector by identifying relevant patents and technological trends across the globe with the help of machine translations and machine learning.
  • Machine Learning as a Prediction Tool for Researchers
    Posted on 2017-05-17

  • This article in the Harvard Business Review describes very well what the role of machine learning should be for knowledge workers, a prediction tool that allows for better-informed judgements.
  • Machine learning can be very helpful to search and filter data to assemble a comprehensive set of relevant information at a speed that was not feasible previously.
  • The creative task of designing experiments and judging among different options should remain firmly in the hands of the researcher, and should always be driven by a clearly formulated hypothesis.
  • Recap - Applied Machine Learning Days at EPFL, Switzerland
    Posted on 2017-01-30

  • The first 'Applied Machine Learning Days' were held at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. A highly interesting set of presentations demonstrated how machine learning makes data analysis more efficient in many areas of science, technology, business and in the non-profit sector.
  • The panel discussion resulted in a consensus that technological advances in this field have to be carefully accompanied by politics and social sciences, which should define a legal framework and philosophical guidelines, and by sufficient investments in education.