Altair Nanotechnologies Begin Work on Next Generation Capacitors

Altair Nanotechnologies Inc., today announced that it has begun work on a development project entitled “SBIR Phase l: Carbon-Coated Nano-Structured Electrodes for Next-Generation Lithium-Ion Ultra Capacitors.” The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase l grant, initially for $100,000, provides the opportunity to receive an additional $500,000 Phase ll grant which, if the development program is successful, leads to a Phase lll commercialisation.

Altair and Hosokawa Micron’s Nano Particle Technology Center produced the first advanced carbon coated materials for this program, which were tested under a contract with the Energy Storage Research Group at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Based on that work the final research testing protocol was determined. The Phase l grant work is scheduled for completion in December 2004.

This program, with the ultimate objective of commercialisation of a high-power, fast-charge battery within the automotive industry, is the product of successive inventions and development agreements that have been published and announced over a period of several years. A summary of these technology advances provides insight into opportunities created by Altair’s unique, functional nanomaterials.

Nano-structured electrodes, using Altair’s proprietary materials, combine the high-speed capabilities of capacitors with the energy storage features associated with batteries. The work is expected to lead to significant commercialisation opportunities within the automotive industry for batteries using hybrid Ultra Capacitor/Battery concepts and Altair’s electrode materials. The potential for commercialising these technologies was first reported by Altair in its November 2001 news release in which Dr. K.M. Abraham, an independent consultant, confirmed that Altair’s new nano-sized lithium titanate spinel could achieve lithium ion charging and discharging rates 10 to 100 times higher than with materials commercially available at that time.

This superior performance of Altair’s lithium titanate spinel in a prototype battery was first reported by Telcordia (now Rutgers University’s Energy Storage Research Group) in the Journal of Power Sources, published in March 2003. Telcordia’s new thin film hybrid battery / Ultra Capacitor technology used Altair’s advanced materials. This hybrid battery met the performance standards established by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the power assist batteries required for cars of the future using fuel cells or hybrid internal combustion engines/battery drives.

The advancement in charging and discharging capabilities of Altair’s materials were published in the July 2003 issue of Journal of Electrochemistry through a joint collaboration with Altair, Switzerland-based Xoliox and Czechoslovakia-based J. Heyrovsky Institute. The report demonstrated that Altair’s nanomaterials could be fully charged in only a few seconds and that Dr. Abraham’s assessment proved to be correct. The Rutgers team utilized the technology in their unique prototype battery and is now participating in the current test work. Based upon the results of Rutgers’ prototype battery, Altair has taken the necessary steps to improve both its technology and its ability to supply commercial quantities of its nanomaterials to the marketplace.

Using information available from the Telcordia/Rutgers’ publications, Altair and Hosokawa Micron International joined forces to overcome the limitation of electrical transport and lithium ion availability in electrodes made of high performance nano-materials, and to provide the battery industry with a sufficient supply of the advanced materials. The agreement between the companies was jointly announced in February 2004 and stated that the two companies would undertake to achieve the following goals:

  • Establish a development program using both companies’ combined technologies to develop advanced electrode materials for electrochemical devices, including batteries, capacitors and supercapacitors, using a variety of nanomaterials;
  • Strengthen the technical and market position of the companies by combining technological and financial assets, including existing manufacturing capabilities.
  • Apply for U.S. government grants for the development and funding of commercialisation activities.

Altair and Hosokawa agreed that if testing and commercialisation prove to be successful, additional funding would be committed and sought to provide dedicated facilities for the production of the advanced materials. Both Altair and Hosokawa are currently seeking battery manufacturers that can utilize the advanced materials for participation in the next development stages and potential commercialisation.

Altair is committed to participating in advanced/alternative energy industries and uses a similar approach for developing projects related to hydrogen generation and fuel cells. Each program offers the potential for advanced materials, but must overcome the limitations imposed by existing products or markets that were not initially structured to use these new materials. Altair is building upon its experience in the advancement of its battery materials as a basis for the development of its fuel cell, solar cell and hydrogen production materials..

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