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Startup Offers a Silicon Solution for Lithium-Ion Batteries

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News Article

Philip E. Ross
December 13, 2019

Originally posted on
IEEE Spectrum

You could cram a lot more energy in a lithium-ion battery anode if you replaced the graphite in the anode with silicon. Silicon has about 10 times as much storage capacity.

But silicon bloats during charging, and that can break a battery’s innards. Graphite hardly swells at all because during charging it slips incoming lithium ions between its one-atom-thick layers. That process, called intercalation, involves no chemical change whatever. But it’s different with silicon: Silicon and lithium combine to form lithium silicide, a bulky alloy. 

A lot of companies are trying to sidestep the problem by fine-tuning the microstructure of silicon sheets or particles, typically by building things from the bottom up. We’ve written about a few of them, including Sila Nanotechnologies, Enovix, and XNRGI.

Now comes Advano, a startup in New Orleans, that champions a top-down approach. The point is to produce silicon particles that are perhaps not so fine-tuned, but still good enough, and to produce the little dots in huge quantities.

“We start with bulk material and reduce the size; it’s like grinding, and it’s infinitely scalable,” says Alexander L. Girau, the founder of Advano, which is just emerging from stealth mode. “True, you get a wide distribution of sizes; it’s not as controllable as a bottom-up process, where you start with a gas or liquid and then make it self-assemble. Again, that would be a beautiful, finely tuned material. But how the hell do you scale?”

(Read the full article on IEEE Spectrum)