Boeing has invested in Berkeley, Calif.-based Cuberg, Inc., a startup founded by former Stanford University researchers developing next-generation battery technology for potential aerospace and industrial applications.
Cuberg developed an advanced lithium metal rechargeable battery cell that is designed to be a drop-in solution to existing large-scale battery manufacturing processes. It combines a lithium metal anode, proprietary electrolyte and high-voltage cathode to achieve high energy density and thermal durability.
Cuberg’s battery technology has some of the highest energy density we’ve seen in the marketplace, and its unique chemistries could prove to be a safe, stable solution for future electric air transportation.—Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX
Since it was established in April 2015, Cuberg has grown with several rounds of financing and grant funding, and signed a multimillion-dollar joint development agreement with an industrial battery manufacturer.
In September 2017, CalSEED awarded Cuberg $150,000 in Phase I grant funding. CalSEED, a funding initiative of the California Energy Commission, is a funding and professional development program for innovators and entrepreneurs working to bring early-stage clean energy concepts to market.
In December 2017, NSF SBIR awarded Cuberg $225,000 in Phase I grant funding.
The NSF SBIR project will develop key components of a next-generation lithium metal battery that greatly increases both energy density and safety compared to the best lithium-ion batteries. The project addresses the key unmet challenge for next-generation battery chemistries based on lithium metal: highly reversible cycling (> 500 cycles with lithium plating efficiency > 99.7%) with high charging current density (> 1 mA/cm2).
The objective of the proposed R&D is to prove out a concept around novel metallic anode formulation that can enable unprecedented cycle life, lithium plating efficiency, and charging rate.
Existing cell prototypes with pure lithium metal anodes have already demonstrated stable cycling and high specific energy at lower rates. However, inadequate lithium plating efficiency at high charging rates limits the cycle life that can be achieved in a commercial cell. Phase I research efforts will focus on two main objectives:
Improve reversibility and efficiency of the metallic anode at high charge rates compared to pure lithium metal; and
Demonstrate the performance benefits in a coin cell with commercially attractive design parameters that delivers 500 cycles with minimal lithium loss at a high rate.
The ultimate goal of the Phase I research is to develop a high-performance lab prototype, based on an optimized electrolyte and commercial cell components, that will provide proof of feasibility for rapid commercialization in the target market.
Cuberg CEO Richard Wang is currently a member of the Cyclotron Road entrepreneurial research fellowship program located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Cuberg previously participated in the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy’s Innovation Transfer Program at Stanford University and was named one of the top seven startups in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2016 National Cleantech University Prize competition.
Boeing HorizonX Ventures led this second seed investment round, which included a follow-on investment by HPC Energy Services, a Canadian integrated oil and gas product and service company. This is Boeing HorizonX Ventures’ first investment in an energy storage company since the fund was established in April 2017.
The Boeing HorizonX Ventures portfolio includes investments in autonomous systems technology, wearable-enabled technologies, augmented reality systems, hybrid-electric propulsion and artificial intelligence. Boeing HorizonX also seeks unique business opportunities and non-traditional partnerships for the company's aerospace technology using disruptive innovations and business strategies.