CFX Battery Changes Name to Contour Energy Systems, Entering Market with High Power Lithium Carbon Flouride Primary Batteries; Next-Generation Secondary Batteries Under Development
|Comparison of gravimetric and volumetric energy densities for four different types of 2016 coin cells. The Li/CFx battery affords a significant improvement over both primary lithium and alkaline batteries. Source: Contour. Click to enlarge.
Contour Energy Systems, a spinoff of the collaboration between CalTech and CNRS, the French National Center for Scientific Research, is emerging from stealth mode with advancements in new fluorine-based battery chemistries, nanomaterials science and manufacturing processes for lithium-ion energy storage systems. The company was formerly known as CFX Battery.
The company plans initially to commercialize advanced primary battery systems in multiple form factors (coin, cell, film or prismatic), targeting a wide range of portable power applications spanning the transportation, government and defense, medical, industrial, portable electronics and specialty application markets. The company is targeting an accelerated time-to-market for next-generation rechargeable (secondary) batteries that will also benefit from its battery chemistries and materials.
Carbon fluoride batteries have been around since the 1970s, featuring high energy density, high temperature performance, and shelf life. However, they have suffered from limited power capability and reduced low temperature performance. Contour developed a proprietary process that introduces fluorine into the carbon material that provides a fundamentally different atomic structure than traditional carbon fluoride materials to address those limitations.
This new structure, coupled with the use of new materials, retains all the favorable aspects of traditional primary Li/CFx batteries, while providing best-in- class power and low temperature performance versus other lithium primary-based systems.
Contour Energy’s fluoride chemistry can be customized during key steps in the manufacturing process to alter the cathode’s physical structure at the atomic level. This “Tunable Cathode”, combined with a novel anode, electrolyte and/or separator materials enables application-specific batteries featuring an optimal combination of higher energy and/or power densities, and discharge rates, according to the company. Improvements over existing primary lithium batteries include:
- Up to 3X increase in energy density (>700 Wh/Kg)
- Up to 8X increase in power density
- Operation from -60°C to in excess of 160°C
- A shelf life of up to 15 Years
- No overheating or passivation
- No heavy metals or toxic chemicals
NASA contracts. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded the company two technology transfer contracts. With the first contract, NASA is engaging Contour Energy to develop high-energy primary batteries with advanced safety features capable of performing under a wide temperature range for manned space missions. To meet this goal, Contour Energy will characterize and establish the technological feasibility of a new lithium carbon-fluoride-based high capacity primary battery that offers higher rate capabilities and enhanced safety characteristics compared to conventional Li/CFx primary systems.
Potential NASA commercial applications resulting from Contour Energy’s technology transfer contract include advanced primary lithium carbon fluoride battery systems that can be used for exploratory missions including power to support outposts, habitats, and science packages. The high specific energy will greatly reduce the mass of the batteries used onboard in long distance space missions.
The second NASA technology transfer contract engages Contour Energy to pursue the chemical conversion of micron-sized, nano-structured templates available from renewable resources into functional electrode materials. The objective is to establish that electrodes fabricated from these nanostructures are innovative materials providing improved electrochemical performance compared to traditional electrodes.
By achieving this goal, Contour Energy will be positioned to address the significant increases in energy capacity, power capability and cycling stability necessary to meet the NASA requirements for advanced Li-ion battery technology. Key NASA applications that can take advantage of such innovative rechargeable cell chemistries and advanced electrode materials include power sources for Landers, Rovers and extra-vehicular activities.
Co-founders of Contour Energy are Dr. Robert Grubbs, 2005 Nobel Laureate, Professor of Chemistry at CalTech, and founder of several other high technology materials companies; Dr. Rachid Yazami, a visiting professor from Cal Tech; and Dr. Andre Hamwi, Professor at the University of Blaise-Pascal, Clermont-Ferrands, France with more than 30 years of electrochemistry experience, holder of more than 30 patents, and a recognized specialist in fluorine. Drs. Grubbs and Hamwi are serving as company advisors, and Dr. Grubbs sits on the Board of Directors.
Headquartered in Azusa, CA, Contour Energy is managed by a team of battery industry leaders from CalTech, Energizer, Duracell, ConocoPhillips, Hewlett-Packard and Ultralife. The company is privately held with funding from CMEA Capital, Harris and Harris, Schlumberger and US Venture Partners.
J. F. Whitacre, W. C. West, M. C. Smart, R. Yazami, G. K. Surya Prakash, A. Hamwi and B. V. Ratnakumara (2007) Enhanced Low-Temperature Performance of Li–CFx Batteries. Electrochemical and Solid-State Letters, 10 (7) A166-A170 doi: 10.1149/1.2735823