SolidEnergy promises revolution in handset charging

US start-up is first to deploy lithium metal batteries safely, promising to double energy density for mobile devices and, one day, cars

The days of scrabbling around for a phone charger might be over with an invention from SolidEnergy, a start-up which claims to have revolutionized battery technology for mobile devices.

The company says it has doubled the energy density of a battery for a small device such as a smartphone or wearable, and also has its eyes on electric cars in future. Its design is a rechargeable lithium metal battery, with twice the density of current lithium ion batteries.

According to former MIT researcher Qichao Hu, who leads the SolidEnergy team, the new batteries can pack twice the energy into a unit of the same size as a lithium ion device, or provide the same power in a half-sized unit, which could support very small connected form factors, like jewellery.

Hu credits recent breakthroughs in materials science with the new capability. Although lithium metal batteries have excited interest for years because of their density, previous designs have been unusable, since the anode material breaks down over time. Hu’s design addresses this by replacing the solid anode with a hybrid of a thin lithium metal foil and a non-flammable liquid electrolyte, as MIT News reports on its former post-doctoral student’s advance.

SolidEnergy raised a $12m second round of funding in January, bringing its total to date to $20.5m. General Motors Ventures led the B round, indicating the start-up’s goal of extending its technology into cars, as soon as it has commercialized the batteries in smartphones, as early as 2017.

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