Engineers in the lab of Xin Li, an Associate Professor of Materials Science at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, have developed a new solid-state battery that is capable of 10,000-lifetime cycles and a charge rate as fast as three minutes. The revolutionary technology has brought in an exclusive grant from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development for Li’s startup Adden Energy, Inc., which will help develop cells with improvements in reliability and performance that could be used in future applications for electric vehicles.
Li, along with Fred Hu, William Fitzhugh, and Luhan Ye, all Ph.D. recipients at Harvard, founded Adden Energy in 2021. The startup was launched last year to help develop palm-sized pouch cells for various applications. The cells are essentially a trial run for future projects, which include a full-scale vehicle battery within the next three to five years.
“If you want to electrify vehicles, a solid-state battery is the way to go,” Li said in an interview with Harvard. “We set out to commercialize this technology because we do see our technology as unique compared to other solid-state batteries. We have achieved in the lab 5,000 to 10,000 charge cycles in a battery’s lifetime, compared with 2,000 to 3,000 charging cycles for even the best in class now, and we don’t see any fundamental limit to scaling up our battery technology. That could be a game changer.”
Solid-state batteries utilize a solid material to allow energy to flow from the cathode to the anode, instead of traditional lithium-ion cells, which utilize a liquid electrolyte solution. EV makers have not been able to switch to solid-state technology as of late due to its complex manufacturing processes. Additionally, researchers have not been able to find ideal solutions for the material it would utilize in the batteries, and this continues to be a pain point of the development.
However, Adden Energy’s grant from Harvard, along with a $5.15 million funding round earlier this year, will help develop the recently-successful palm-sized cell into an upstream process that will hopefully yield a new, full-scale EV battery. Adden’s cell achieved charging rates as fast as three minutes and over 10,000 cycles in its lifetime. It also displayed high energy density and stability that was incredibly more predictable than lithium-ion cells.
Li, along with other Adden founders, all maintain that developing a solid-state cell could help improve affordability, availability, and the overall EV market share.
“Electric vehicles cannot remain a luxury fashion, literally the ‘one percent’ of vehicles on the road, if we are to make progress toward a clean energy future, and the U.S. won’t have a used-car market if EV batteries last only 3 to 5 years. The technology needs to be accessible to everyone. Extending the lifetime of the batteries, as we’re doing here, is an important part of that,” Li said.
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