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ORNL licenses liquid-to-solid battery electrolyte technology exclusively to Safire

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has exclusively licensed battery electrolyte technology to Safire Technology Group. The collection of five patented technologies is designed for a drop-in additive for lithium-ion batteries that prevents explosions and fire from impact.

Safire, a battery technology startup formerly known as BTRY, plans to locate facilities in East Tennessee as part of its plan to commercialize the liquid-to-solid battery technology. (Earlier post.)

The potential for battery cells to catch fire or explode when impacted—such as in a car crash—and cause property loss, serious injuries or deaths is a major challenge in the adoption of battery technology for electric vehicles and aircraft, such as unmanned aerial vehicles. ORNL’s Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte, or SAFIRE, technology removes this risk through a new electrolyte formulation that changes the electrolyte from liquid to solid upon impact.

In a lithium-ion battery, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes. If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer fails, the electrodes can come into contact and cause the battery’s liquid electrolyte to catch fire.

The SAFIRE electrolyte is a liquid under normal operating conditions, allowing solvents to wet all the electrode surfaces and perform just like a traditional battery electrolyte. However, upon impact the additive causes the electrolyte to undergo an immediate and massive rheological shift to become a solid.

The technology can significantly reduce vehicle weight and increase range by removing the need for heavy protective shielding around the battery.

SAFIRE will transform the car industry, particularly as we pivot towards electric vehicles. The additive is easy to incorporate into existing battery-making processes and provides users with a safer alternative that is lighter and more effective than conventional battery protection, resulting in higher performance and lower total cost of ownership.

—John Lee, co-founder and CEO of Safire

In defense applications, the technology provides projectile and ballistic protection while reducing the weight of defense systems and equipment.

Lee and Mike Grubbs, Safire’s other cofounder, are also partnering with government agencies and industry to develop the technology for electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft, e-bikes and other Li-ion-powered equipment.

ORNL’s Gabriel Veith, the inventor of SAFIRE, has been working to develop and refine the battery technology since 2014. Veith has been named in two R&D 100 Awards, including one for SAFIRE. The development team also includes ORNL colleagues Beth Armstrong, Hsin Wang, Sergiy Kalnaus, Katie Browning and Kevin Cooley.

SAFIRE was originally funded through the ORNL Seed Money program, and the project continued under DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The commercialization effort received support from the lab’s Technology Innovation Program as well as FedTech’s Startup Studio, a venture firm program dedicated to advancing deep tech.

Safire plans to start developing prototypes with strategic partners.


Albert E Short

It's always good to see this kind of "swords into plowshares" stuff happening, though hardening liquid electrolytes will be obviated by Quantumscape in less than 3 years. Unless QS goes all Sakti 3 on us GCC readers.


Been watching battery announcements for a long time now; lots going on; but, haven't read of much production progress on affordable batteries much above 250 Wh/Kg. And, that's what we need for ICEV parity.


GMG is another promising candidate besides QS. A common denominator to both could be Bosch. It would be exceedingly interesting to see battery cells based on the chemistry of GMG and the technological platform of QS. That would ensure lightweight batteries with an energy density above 400 Wh / kg for affordable prices. Anyway, GMG's cells have a charging rate of 60 to 70 x that of conventional Li-ion.


I don0t think GMC is going to be a player.
Anything based on graphene is going to be expensive or simply not going to happen. At least for meany years to come.


@ peskanov:
According to GMG's claims , they have implemented a patented procedure for producing flawless Graphene from NG at a decent price. If those claims are true - and apparently they could be trusted - then Graphene price should not be a viable obstacle.


At any rate, their coin cells seem to be performing to claims.


this company smells fishy to me, because if you have the technology to produce cheap graphene by the ton, you don't waste your time making batteries. Graphene is quite expensive.

A similar case happened in Spain; a company calles graphenano said the could make cheap graphene, and showed a magic battery also.
The thing ended in the tribunals...

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