Blue Current continues to carefully expand its investment and industry partnerships. During 2023, new and existing investors, Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), Piedmont Capital, and Umicore, began or continued investment. Blue Current’s investors also include global business leaders, Alan Mulally, who served as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Ford Motor Company, and Henry Kravis, co-founder of KKR, who joined as a new investor.
The company is using this added funding to complete its 22,000-square-foot pilot manufacturing facility at its headquarters in Hayward, California. The pilot will be used to prove its batteries can be scaled economically using high-volume LIB manufacturing equipment.
For next-generation EVs and mobile devices to succeed, a leap forward is needed with battery technology. To achieve this, most of the industry has been working to add highly engineered (and costly) silicon anode materials to traditional LIB cells or to develop lithium metal cells paired with liquid or gel electrolytes. These approaches offer the potential for higher energy but are expensive and hard to scale, Blue Current says.
Lithium metal is also highly flammable, leading to safety concerns. To compensate, engineers must design safety at the system level with protective structures, fire-retardant materials, and complex thermal management systems. This increases product costs and limits the potential for system-level energy density improvements.
Blue Current is taking a different approach. The company’s technology addresses three critical performance vectors.
It maximizes energy density through the highest possible silicon content.
The need for expensive packaging material is eliminated since Blue Current’s battery cycles well at low operating pressure.
Blue Current’s battery is also safe and completely dry without flammable liquid or gel electrolyte materials used in traditional LIBs.
It’s clear from our progress in 2023 that there is continued and growing interest to move the EV industry forward using a silicon-first approach. Fully dry solid electrolytes are critical to achieving high silicon content anodes. The progress we’ve made developing elastic composite electrolyte materials and enabling low pressure makes us uniquely capable of commercializing this approach, and we’re excited about the feedback we’re hearing from our partners.—Kevin Wujcik, CTO at Blue Current
Blue Current believes that it is the first to deliver on all three of these metrics using what it refers to as a silicon-first approach with elastic composite electrolyte technology. This, the company says, is evidenced by the following milestones in 2023:
10x higher silicon anode active material content versus state-of-the-art LIB cells while maintaining long cycle life of 1000 cycles. This enables a 50% reduction in anode thickness.
Steady improvement in energy density with over 100 Wh/L added in 2023. Current density is comparable with LIB, and the company has a defined development path to over 900 Wh/L that’s 33% higher than state-of-the-art LIB cells.
High cycle life achieved at pressures of 1 MPa. This is an order of magnitude lower pressure than the published research on fully dry ASSB technology and enables reduced packaging costs.
Unique IP for low pressure operation builds on the company's 22 patent families and associated trade secrets. This covers materials and material integration of composites.
Ongoing safety testing shows that thermal stability is substantially higher than traditional LIB battery cells. This includes ARC, crush, DSC, nail penetration, and overcharge testing.
In 2023, Blue Current doubled its team of chemists and advanced manufacturing experts with key hires with prior background at Cal-tech, Tesla, PPG, QuantumScape, SilaNano, Stanford, and Rivian. It also completed a series of evaluation projects with global industry partners.
In 2016, Blue Current imagined combining 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 as a silicon elastic composite battery.
Blue Current's Silicon Elastic Composite Battery
The materials and processes were co-designed to be produced with high-volume manufacturing equipment. The company is building its first Megawatt-scale pilot factory in California to produce sample batteries for industry partners and customer validation.