For a few years, battery insiders have been talking about a startup company called Sakti3. The University of Michigan spin-out has received millions in funding from backers including Khosla Ventures and GM Ventures. Until recently, the company has been pretty secretive, but this week CEO Ann Marie Sastry told Scientific American that the company’s prototype battery cells have reached a record energy density of 1,143 Watt-hours per liter – more than double that of today’s best lithium-ion batteries.
What’s more, the company says it is using “scalable materials and equipment,” and has a plan to move to full-scale production at low unit cost.
“Our target is to achieve mass production of cells at ~$100/kWh,” said Dr Sastry. “Our key patents on the technology have been issued, we are up and running on larger tooling, and can now speed up processing. Our first market will be consumer electronics, and after that, we’ll move to other sectors.”
Sakti3 produces its solid-state batteries with the same thin-film deposition process used to make flat-panel displays and photovoltaic cells. The cell contains no liquid electrolyte – an “interlayer” acts as both separator and electrolyte. Sastry and her colleagues have been working on this idea since 2006, when they reasoned that eliminating the liquid electrolyte would allow a battery pack to do without much of the packaging, such as liquid cooling tubes and electronic controls, that adds cost and weight.
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Sastry says that her cells should also be longer-lasting and safer than today’s batteries. “Solid state eliminates the riskiest part of the battery cell,” she says. “You can snap one of the batteries into two pieces. Drop hot solder on it and it continues to operate.” Sakti3 has demonstrated the hot-solder test in a video.
“It’s clearly a breakthrough – it’s a world’s best, made on a mass-production platform,” said battery expert Professor Wei Lu from the University of Michigan. “It’s not either/or in cost and performance in batteries anymore – Sakti3 has both. They have a very rigorous testing facility – their results are highly impressive and very accurate.”