Ateios Systems’ CEO Rajan Kumar Ph.D. is not only helping to drive manufacturing innovation in the fast-growing modern battery industry but is also driving innovation in the creation and commercialization of new battery products.
By involving prospective partners in the process of designing and engineering batteries, Ateios Systems is working to reduce time to market and reduce overall costs that are traditionally associated with legacy lab development operations.
The global battery market size was valued at USD 104.31 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.8 percent from 2023 to 2030, according to a recent study published by Grand View Research.
“The high use of UPS devices in healthcare, chemical, and oil & gas sectors for continuous power supply is expected to propel the growth of the battery market, the report explains, adding that “the lithium-ion battery is expected to capture a significant portion of the lead acid battery market during the forecast period on account of their low energy density and lightweight. The U.S. market is anticipated to witness substantial growth in the forecast period owing to favorable government policies and increasing electric vehicle and consumer electronics sales in the country.”
Over 95 percent of batteries are produced overseas, and during the global pandemic when supply chain issues grew, it became even more difficult to obtain batteries, and given the unstoppable growth of battery -operated consumer electronic devices, EVs, phones and more don’t work without batteries which need to be lighter weight and more powerful, Kumar Ph.D. is determined to become a strong competitor with products “Made in the USA.”
There has been very little innovation in the process for manufacturing batteries over the last five decades, and with a traditional process that relies on the use and re-use of toxic liquids, and the costly nature of legacy manufacturing, the company is focused on alternatives – including how new batteries are envisioned, designed, and commercialized.
Using composite materials with electron curable polymers, Ateios has developed a new battery manufacturing process that is solventless and non-toxic. Leveraging years of work being done by scientists and researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Ateios has produced batteries that are small enough, light enough, and powerful enough to support a wide variety of applications.
For many years, the battery industry has relied on high-temperature toxic solvents to mix battery powders with thermoplastic polymers to make a composite film, called an electrode. The solvents make it easy to create a composite glob that can be coated onto a metal foil with great uniformity.
Once the foil is coated, the solvents are removed, leaving just a film containing the composite powder and binder. Once made, the film is processed and die cut then assembled with other electrodes or components that can power a wide range of devices. The industry is now finding the use of solvents creates bottlenecks, limiting the ability to increase energy density, and is expensive to remove. In the entire battery manufacturing process, the drying step accounts for nearly 47 percent of the energy costs and CO2 emissions.
ORNL discovered and demonstrated that these composite films can be made with electron curable polymers, which require little to no solvent. Rather than using solvents to help dissolve the polymers, the pieces of the electron curable polymers called monomers could make a coatable, composite glob. Leverage similar coating technologies and exposing the monomers to a shower of electrons, the monomers will connect to form a polymer network to make the film. The use of electrons as a drying process compared to heat, has proven to increase the speed, reduce costs, improve the energy density, and be compatible with various battery types and sizes.
These innovative manufacturing techniques will be adopted for years to come as they drastically increase the speed at which electrodes are manufactured, reduce the carbon footprint associated with battery manufacturing, and decrease the size necessary to create gigafactories.
In 2022, Ateios Systems licensed The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, technology for the solvent-free battery component production using electron curable polymers, and ORNL and Ateios received a Federal Laboratory Award for Paper-Thin, Customizable Batteries.
“At ORNL, every stage of the research process is a priority, including the commercialization of our technology. It is an honor to be recognized for our efforts in this area as we ensure our scientific breakthroughs have a positive impact on the nation,” said ORNL director Thomas Zacharia.
This technology holds promise to enable the widespread use in Internet of Things applications such as medical monitoring devices, electronic shelf labels, asset tracking and other devices that help people to monitor conditions and make proactive decisions in a connected world.
Ateios is a Techstars company. Techstars is the most active pre-seed investor in the world, having invested through its accelerators in more than 3,500 companies that have a combined market cap of $98 billion. Founded in 2006, Techstars believes that entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone, and great ideas can come from anywhere.
They are on a mission to invest in an unprecedented number of startups per year enabling more capital to flow to more entrepreneurs around the world and do this by operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, as well as by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities.
At its foundation, Ateios is aiming to provide an innovative electrode manufacturing process that increases output, reduces overall cost, and helps eliminate waste providing a much more environmentally friendly manufacturing process.
The company is in a $15 million battery pilot facility in Indiana, an incubator space including a wide range of battery production equipment, including a solvent-based electrode line. Kumar is a fellow of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program, during which he will have the opportunity to work closely with ONRL to commercialize the Ateios technology.