Today's growing need for energy storage drives the requirement for a radical change in battery design and production.
Startup Prieto Battery, spun out of Colorado State University, is focused on all the three major components of the existing battery architecture. Their environmentally-friendly, water-based manufacturing process is highly repeatable, easily scalable, and very cost effective. Prieto Battery claims that this ground up approach redefines the standard for battery production and performance and is necessary to break out of the decades-long incremental approach to building a better battery. The goal - a battery that is safe, has more power, charges faster, lasts longer, costs less and can be used across a variety of applications and devices.
The Chemistry Behind the Prieto Battery
This patent-pending architecture is designed around a porous copper structure (copper foam), conformally coated by an ultra-thin polymer electrolyte and then surrounded by a cathode matrix. The result is a three-dimensionally structured lithium-ion battery composed of interpenetrating electrodes with extremely short Li+ diffusion distances and a power density that is orders of magnitude greater than comparable two-dimensional architectures in use today.
The use of copper antimonide (Cu2Sb) electrodeposited onto copper foam lends an unprecedented degree of stability to the anode and has already demonstrated excellent capacity over extensive cycling. Such materials and the underlying technologies lend themselves to low cost manufacturing and production scale-up.
The realization of this sophisticated battery required the development of myriad cutting-edge enabling technologies, according to Prieto Battery. At the heart of this product is a patent-pending technology for the fabrication of the Cu2Sb copper foam substrate. Using a novel electrodeposition method, Cu2Sb may be directly deposited without the costly requirement of further annealing or other post-treatments. This technique ensures continuous electrical contact throughout the 3D anode.
The fabrication of the electrolyte layer is accomplished through an electrochemical polymerization method - specifically designed to uniformly encapsulate the entire conductive surface of the anode. The electrolyte is conformal and very thin to allow for the subsequent interpenetration into the structure by the cathode material. This layer is pin-hole free, which is critical for the overall performance of the battery. The strict demands on the electrolyte form the basis for additional intellectual property protection.
A closer look at Prieto Battery innovation: Foam technology
Prieto's first battery to market will be produced with a copper foam substrate. The copper foam is approximately 98% air, or void space. Through Prieto Battery's proprietary technology the anode and separator material are applied via electrodeposition. Then the cathode material is applied as a liquid slurry.
Due to an increase in surface area of approximately 60X, Prieto's foam battery is expected to have power densities reaching 14,000 W/L while maintaining energy densities of 650 Wh/L. The foam battery will be customizable, capable of being optimized for either power density or energy density.
While the basic science is the same, the specific technology used comes down to the application. Prieto is actively seeking partners that have applications and products where Prieto can provide market advantage.
Non-toxic manufacturing process from start-to-finish
In contemplating the design of their novel 3D architecture, Prieto Battery considered the methods by which the battery would ultimately be manufactured. As part of their mission to deliver a battery that can be used by the masses, Prieto is working to develop a process that is cost competitive and friendly to the environment. Prieto Battery uses electroplating, a widely used process in many other industries, to make their batteries. The equipment is inexpensive, scalable, and the electroplating baths are stable for months at a time. Prieto is working to create the world's best rechargeable battery using an environmentally friendly manufacturing process.
The first applications of the battery are likely to be small such as in wearable systems and consumer electronics, for instance.
Source and top image: Prieto Battery