$15 Million Investment into Battery Research

$15 Million Investment into Battery Research

Your smartphone may soon go twice as long between charges as it does now. And you'll have your vacuum cleaner to thank.

Sakti3, a Michigan-based battery maker spun off from the University of Michigan, is behind the push for longer battery life, using solid-state technology to keep devices running longer. Sakti3 is getting a jolt of its own courtesy of Dyson, the vacuum-cleaner company, which is investing $15 million into Sakti3's battery-boosting efforts.

The lithium-ion battery currently powering your smartphone or other electronic device uses a liquid electrolyte to produce a charge. Sakti3's approach replaces that liquid with solid lithium electrodes.

As a result, Sakti3 says, it can pack more power into a battery. Last August, the company told Scientific American that its lithium battery cells had reached an energy density of 1,143 Watt-hours per litre, which would be double the energy density of a top-of-the line lithium-ion battery.

The trick will be to move from the prototype stage to large-scale production, and that's where Dyson's involvement comes in. The vacuum-cleaner maker is going to help commercialize Sakti3's battery, with the improved batteries appearing in Dyson products first, before being made available to other device makers.

That could mean double the 20-hour battery life of Dyson's cordless vacuum cleaners, although founder James Dyson hints to the Wall Street Journal that his company would be interested in moving into new product categories.

A better battery would certainly be welcome in the consumer-electronics world, especially when many top smartphones still require a charge at some point during the day. Carmakers have been particularly interested in the work being done by Sakti3, especially if it means pushing the range of electric vehicles to 300 miles or more between charges while also potentially lowering the sticker price on electric vehicles.

Solid-state batteries promise other benefits besides more power and lower costs. They're seen as more environmentally friendly than current lithium-ion batteries, and by eliminating the flammable liquid electrolyte, solid-state batteries create less of a chance for battery explosions.