Saudi Arabia-based SABIC, a global leader in diversified chemicals, has taken a majority stake in Black Diamond Structures (BDS), a nanotechnology company established in 2014. BDS produces and commercializes MOLECULAR REBAR, a proprietary technology of modified carbon nanotubes that offers potential for enhancing the performance of energy storage applications using lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries.
BDS was founded in 2014 as a joint venture between SABIC Ventures US LLC and Molecular Rebar Design.
MOLECULAR REBAR technology from BDS is believed to offer great potential for enhancing the performance of energy storage applications, such as lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries used in the mobility industry. Photo courtesy SABIC.
BDS is being added as part of SABIC’s Specialties business. According to Alan Leung, Vice President of Specialties, the carbon nanotube technology of BDS will allow Specialties to address several demanding challenges in the energy storage market. In particular, BDS provides benefits to battery manufacturers looking for breakthrough improvements in charge rates, battery cycle life and energy density.
Conventional carbon nanotubes are known for their tendency to get entangled, cake and hold high residual impurities, limiting their capabilities of enhancing electrical and mechanical material properties in real world applications. In contrast, the MOLECULAR REBAR product supplied by BDS delivers clean and discrete carbon nanotubes of uniform aspect ratio, enabling their use to create high-performance energy storage applications.
BDS Chief Executive Officer, John Hacskaylo, says that this proprietary nanomaterial can be directly incorporated in existing production processes of batteries without requiring additional investments, allowing a fast-track for manufacturers to improve their next generation of batteries.
Tests have shown that MOLECULAR REBAR-type carbon nanotubes:
For lead acid-batteries: improve cycle life by more than 50%; improve cold temperature performance; improve charge acceptance by more than 25%; and provide stronger resistance to physical and thermal abuse.
For Li-ion batteries: enable higher silicon content in the anode; support longer cycle life; provides stronger resistance to physical and thermal abuse; and offers the potential to utilize ulta-high capacity materials as well as the potential to create solid polymer electrolyte batteries.
Moreover, Hacskaylo expects MOLECULAR REBAR to play an effective role in the down-gauging and downsizing of new battery designs. This not only meets the growing global demand for lighter batteries in the hybrid and electric vehicles market, but also reduces battery production costs, helping manufacturers to increase output and achieve higher economies of scale.
Leung envisions that adding the MOLECULAR REBAR technology to the portfolio of SABIC’s Specialties business can also open new opportunities beyond the energy storage market and unleash innovations in material science for enhancing the properties of specialty resins and functional compounds.