Umicore and Blue Current, a manufacturer of silicon elastic composite solid-state batteries, have agreed to strengthen their collaboration on the development of solid-state battery technology, with Umicore investing a minority stake in the US-based start-up. This investment complements the joint development agreement (JDA) whereby both parties were able to integrate Umicore’s battery materials in Blue Current’s solid-state battery technology.
By providing capital—in addition to supplying state-of-the-art battery materials under the JDA—Umicore intends to work with Blue Current to drive market adoption of the company’s silicon elastic composite battery towards mid-decade.
Blue Current is a chemistry-led technology company focused on delivering on the promise of solid-state batteries for automotive and non-automotive markets where safety, energy density and performance are most critical. The company has its origins at Lawrence Berkeley and Argonne National Laboratories, UC Berkeley and the University of North Carolina.
Blue Current has been working exclusively in the area of silicon anodes with completely dry composite electrolytes since 2018, and it has extensive intellectual property in this area.
Blue Current combines the mechanical elasticity and adhesive capabilities of polymers with the ionic conductivity of glass ceramics to maximize safety, temperature, performance, and scalability. In 2018 the company used this approach to create a fully dry solid-state battery with a high silicon content anode to increase energy density. The company refers to this combination of properties together as a “silicon elastic composite” battery.
Source: Blue Current
Solid-state batteries will have a number of benefits compared to current lithium-ion battery technologies with liquid electrolytes. Their composite electrolytes and silicon anodes allow for electric vehicle (EV) designers to create smaller, lighter, and lower-cost battery packs with greater safety at the cell level and higher energy density at the cell and system level. This also increases the driving range of EVs and speeds up charging, which are critical benefits for end-customers.
Umicore’s roadmap for rechargeable battery materials spans short-, mid- and long-term research horizons for cathode and silicon-based anodes, including those used in solid-state technologies. In parallel with its own research and inhouse work, Umicore develops technologies with third parties, such as start-ups and scale-ups, as well as academic organizations.
Umicore has a strong position in the development of cathode active materials, anodes and catholytes for solid-state batteries, reflected by numerous agreements in place with several partners (OEMs, start-ups and the academic sector). In 2021 already, Umicore announced that it holds a stake in Solid Power, a Colorado-based industry-leading developer of next-generation all-solid-state batteries for electric vehicles. In June 2022, Umicore and Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd also agreed to jointly develop high-performance catholyte materials for solid-state batteries, combining their respective expertise in cathode active materials and solid electrolytes, with the aim to provide the technological breakthrough to extend the driving range and thereby propel the movement towards greater e-mobility.