Industrial & Medical Technology

Startup Uses Alternative Structure to Boost Lithium Ion Battery Performance

28 October 2013

Prieto Battery, a start-up with roots at Colorado State University, is attempting to build a lithium ion battery with an anode made from a copper foam structure which is said to be safer, cheaper, faster-charging and more environmentally friendly than conventional batteries now on the market.

"Foam is relatively easy to manufacture," said Amy Prieto, founder of the firm and a professor of chemistry at Colorado State. The resultant 3-D structure architecture increases the surface area of the electrodes and brings them closer together, which in turn increases the power density of the battery, Prieto said.

The architecture consists of an anode electroplated with copper antimonide on top of the copper foam. The anode electrode provides an electrochemical polymerization reaction that deposits the battery's solid electrolyte. The researchers filled the space within the foam with a slurry that is dried to form the cathode. An aluminum mesh structure collects the current on the cathode side.

The electroplating equipment the team used is inexpensive compared to the equipment needed to make other types of batteries, according to Prieto, who founded Pietro Battery Inc. in 2009. She estimates the cost to manufacture the copper foam batteries will be about half that of conventional lithium ion batteries made in China.

The Prietro research team calculated that the foam battery should store the same amount of energy as conventional batteries in two-thirds the volume, charge five to 10 times faster and last up to 10 times longer.

Prieto will detail the design process in a paper at this week's AVS symposium held in Long Beach, Calif. (Oct. 27 to Nov.1).

The team has tested each individual component and has successfully built a full 2-D battery on a copper plate. The researchers are now in the process of integrating all the components in 3-D.

The foam battery will be tested on electric bikes and portable electronics first. "We are less than one year from our first prototype, after which we'll have third party testing," Prieto said. "We're aiming for low volume, early market beta testing shortly after that."

Prieto was one of 96 researchers who received the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers in 2012, the highest U.S. government honor bestowed on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

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