As we wait for for better batteries, the many wonder technologies we’ve been promised for the last decade have failed to materialize to market for various reasons. This may not be the case of XNRGI, a startup that is ready to ship a “porous” silicon battery that has better energy density and lower manufacturing costs than traditional lithium-ion batteries, and is also safer to use.
One of the reasons why electric cars aren’t more ubiquitous and why our battery-powered devices don’t last as much as we’d expect on a charge is that advancements in the field of energy storage haven’t kept up with the rest of the innovation happening in the tech industry. While new battery technologies seem to pop up every few months with the same promise of higher energy density and durability, faster charging, and lower cost, none of these have made an appearance in commercial applications yet.
Recently a Washington-based startup that has been keeping a low profile for years has unveiled plans to take their patented battery technology to market in 2020, with a project to build grid-scale batteries for the North-American power market. The company says its patented technology has been in the works for 15 years, and is an essential part of the “North American Solution to Climate Change,” with four times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries at half the cost.
A key person in this development is Christine Hallquist, head of Cross Border Power, who also had a failed gubernatorial run in Vermont last year — two experiences that taught her about the challenges of transitioning to renewable energy without grid-scale storage in place. The Republican Governors Association was able to quickly shoot down her campaign with claims that her project would hike gas prices and local taxes.
What the RPA didn’t know is that a group of Canadian venture capitalists had been following Hallquist’s campaign and saw it as the perfect opportunity for XNRGI, who silently developed a “porous” silicon battery that is apparently ready to ship at scale.
XNRGI makes its batteries using silicon wafers that are similar to those used by semiconductor companies to produce their chips. After etching a very dense, 20 by 20 micron honeycomb pattern into those wafers, they coat them with lithium and other metals to form the anodes and cathodes of so-called “micro-batteries”.