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Colorado State University Spinoff to Commercialize “3D” Li-ion Battery Technology for Higher-Capacity, Longer-Life Cells

Examples of prospective 3-D architectures for charge-insertion batteries, as proposed by Long et al. (a) array of interdigitated cylindrical cathodes and anodes; (b) interdigitated plate array of cathodes and anodes; (c) rod array of cylindrical anodes coated with a thin layer of ion-conducting dielectric (electrolyte) with the remaining free volume filled with the cathode material (the Prieto Battery approach); (d) aperiodic “sponge” architectures. Credit: ACS. Click to enlarge.

Colorado State University’s Clean Energy commercialization arm, Cenergy, has co-founded Prieto Battery, a new company that will manufacture Li-ion batteries using a new 3D structure to enable a much larger functional surface area resulting in batteries up to 1,000 times more powerful and 10 times longer-lasting and cheaper than traditional batteries.

In a 2004 paper in the ACS journal Chemical Reviews, Long et al. proposed configuring charge insertion batteries (i.e., Li-ion batteries) as 3D structures to enable the powering of smart dust mote devices, and outlined several theoretical 3D structures for the batteries, which would have to have very high capacities to be able to fit on the device but still provide sufficient power. Dr. Amy Prieto at CSU has worked with one of the theoretical 3D structures described by Long et al.—a rod array of cylindrical anodes coated with a thin layer of ion-conducting dielectric (electrolyte) with the remaining free volume filled with cathode material—for her battery.

Lithium ion batteries use insertion processes for both the positive and negative electrodes, leading to the term “rocking chair” battery. The resulting transport of Li ions between the electrodes, usually arranged in a parallel-plate configuration, is 1-D in nature. To minimize power losses resulting from slow transport of ions, the thickness of the insertion electrodes, as well as the separation distance between them, is kept as small as possible. This approach may appear counterintuitive in the effort to produce a useful battery, because reducing the thickness of the electrode results in lower energy capacity and shorter operating time. Thus, battery design always trades off between available energy and the ability to release this energy without internal power losses.

In recent years there has been the realization that improved battery performance can be achieved by reconfiguring the electrode materials currently employed in 2-D batteries into 3-D architectures...The general strategy of this approach is to design cell structures that maximize power and energy density yet maintain short ion transport distances. While many possible architectures can achieve this goal, a defining characteristic of 3-D batteries is that transport between electrodes remains one-dimensional (or nearly so) at the microscopic level, while the electrodes are configured in complex geometries (i.e., nonplanar) in order to increase the energy density of the cell within the footprint area.

A 3-D matrix of electrodes (in a periodic array or an aperiodic ensemble) is necessary to meet both the requirements of short transport lengths and large energy capacity. Improvements in energy per unit area and high-rate discharge capabilities are two of the benefits that may be realized for these 3-D cells.

—Long et al. 2004

Using an electrodeposition process, Dr. Prieto grows nanowires that make up the first key piece of the battery, the anode. She again uses electrodeposition to coat these tiny structures with a polymer electrolyte. The cathode material is added around the coated nanowires, resulting in a three-dimensional battery.

Proposed architecture of the Prieto battery. Source: CSU. Click to enlarge.

The nanowires that make up the anode cover a surface area that is 10,000 times greater than a traditional battery, Prieto says. This high number of three-dimensional wires creates a much larger functional surface area than other current batteries. According to Prieto, the electrodeposition manufacturing method is fast and inexpensive, allowing the technology to be scaled up to create batteries that can be used for everything from pacemakers to automobiles.

Prieto Battery is the first startup produced by Cenergy. Prieto, who is the chief scientific officer for the new company, expects to demonstrate the first prototype of the battery by early next year.

Bohemian Asset Management in Fort Collins—a privately held division of the Bohemian Cos.—has supplied the first round of funding for the new company.

CSU’s technology transfer office applied for a patent that encompasses all Prieto Battery technology in February. The patent has been exclusively licensed to Prieto Battery.


  • Jeffrey W. Long, Bruce Dunn, Debra R. Rolison, and Henry S. White (2009) Three-Dimensional Battery Architectures. Chem. Rev., 104 (10), pp 4463–4492 doi: 10.1021/cr020740l

  • James M. Mosby and Amy L. Prieto (2008) Direct Electrodeposition of Cu2Sb for Lithium-Ion Battery Anodes. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 130 (32), pp 10656–10661 doi: 10.1021/ja801745n



More power density is not what we need right now, we've already got 5 kW per kg from altairnano, and 20 kW per kg in Forumula 1 batteries.

What we need is increased energy density (at least 300 Wh/kg) and lower cost. Nano-architecture rechargeable metal air is where it's at next....


"Li-ion batteries using a new 3D structure .. resulting in batteries up to 1,000 times more powerful and 10 times longer-lasting and cheaper than traditional batteries."

Is there a prototype confirming these numbers?


More wishfull thinking and pie in the sky.


If this battery can be mass produced it could mean the end of ICE.


If this battery can be mass produced it could mean the end of ICE.


'Prieto joined Colorado State in 2005. She completed her post-doctoral research at Harvard University and received her doctoral degree from the University of California-Berkeley' sounds like the real thing hopefully.


We do need higher power density.  More power density means a smaller, cheaper battery can supply hybrid functionality.  Alternatively, the same size battery can deliver improved acceleration and regeneration performance.


EP zeroed in on it, the acceleration and regenerative braking are big deals in HEV. This could close the price gap between conventional and HEV. Smaller, lighter, higher power and cheaper are all winners.


Can a chemist comment on:

Could this patent be the one?

I may follow the potential Cu2Sb nanowire density increases, but some of the 40 claims are beyond my chemistry.

Would someone explain this patent to me, "like I was a five-year-old" (D. Washington - 'Philadelphia' movie)?

Henry Gibson

This is a nearly obvious extention of the multiple plate batteries invented over a hundred years ago. Some nine volt batteries are filled with many small cylinders much like the proposed battery but for higher voltage instead of higher current, but both are ways to increase power. The Carbon foam of firefly batteries is similar to nanowires. Even a fuel cell or engine that captures CO2 has much higher energy density than the best lithium batteries. Batteries are important for power bursts perhaps like the EFFPOWER ones, but now it is important to realise that most auto trips are short and do not need large batteries and longer ones are served well with standard hydrocarbon fuels. Long distance batteries have been available with the ZEBRA battery for over ten years with the capacity of many lithium batteries. ..HG..


Could boost batteries like Li-S where cycle ability is an issue, usually if you reduce current density per unit of surface you improve cycle ability.


Zebra batteries have/had their chance and nothing in the Prieto patent references multiple plates.

Carlos Fandango

High power density means you can re-charge the at a high rate. A battery re-charge rate of 10KWh/min should be sufficient for most fast charging requirements.

Fast public charging is very important to EV adoption. As the mean daily travel in the US is only 30 miles per day. Long range batteries carry a weight penalty for general use. 35% of car owners won't have access to home charging.

For owners who need a vehicle for longer trips the size of battery would be defined by the charging intervention rate, (how frequently people are prepared to stop). I guess 2-3 hours driving with <5mins re-charge might be good enough for most.


It's safe to say that if recharging at the home parking spot becomes important, there will be a lot of pressure to improve access to it.  If Regina SK can bring 110 VAC to every parking meter, Chicago IL and New York NY can too.

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