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Battery startup Prieto charges up with funds

Written on:May 27, 2012
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A lithium ion battery that can charge in five minutes and last for five times longer than the standard — that’s the goal for startup Prieto Battery, which just raised $ 5.5 million of a planned $ 6.8 million round, according to a filing. The company is the brainchild of Colorado State chemistry professor Amy Prieto, and was the first startup launched out of the business arm of the university’s Cenergy program for commercializing clean energy research.

Prieto Battery is leveraging nanotechnology to develop tiny copper nanowires that make up the anode of the battery. A battery is made up of an anode on one side and a cathode on the other, with an electrolyte in between. For traditional lithium ion batteries, lithium ions travel from the anode to the cathode through the electrolyte, creating a chemical reaction that allows electrons to be harvested along the way. Prieto’s battery is a solid state battery so the electrolyte isn’t liquid, it’s made of a polymer.

The nanowires increase the surface area of the anode, so that more lithium ions can be stored. A lot of new battery research is using nanowires and nanotubes for the same reason. Stanford’s materials scientist Yi Cui, who founded startup Amprius, is working on a lithium ion battery that uses silicon nanotubes coated with silicon oxide shells for the anode.

The researchers behind Prieto also designed the architecture of the battery to be 3D — the cathode and the anode are intertwined. The company says this design gives the battery higher power density, a longer battery life and faster charging times. Because there’s no liquid electrolyte, Prieto says its batteries have removed much of the toxic chemicals of the traditional lithium ion batteries as well.

The technology is still in the development phase, and will need to be proved out at a larger commercial manufacturing scale. The battery could be used for mobile phones and gadgets as well as electric vehicles.

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