Saratoga Energy scales up carbon nanotube production as founder completes Y Combinator

Patented process turns C02 into low-cost carbon nanotubes that can slash charging times & boost battery performance for electric vehicles & grid storage

During the three months Saratoga Energy founder Drew Reid spent with the renowned start-up incubator Y Combinator, the company scaled up production of its low-cost carbon nanotubes from 100 grams per day to half a ton a year. Next step: raising seed funding and scaling production to 20 tons per year.

“We sell better carbon nanotubes at one-twentieth the price of any other producer’s,” Reid told an invitation-only Demo Day audience of investors and journalists. “We’ve developed and patented a revolutionary electrochemical process that converts carbon dioxide to carbon nanotubes.”  

Carbon nanotubes have a variety of promising applications, from slashing battery charging times while boosting capacity, to making tires and roads much more durable. But the high cost of making carbon nanotubes has limited their deployment.

“The current carbon nanotube market is only about $5 billion,” Reid said. “But if you can sell carbon materials for one-twentieth the price — which we can do — this market explodes. Completely new applications in aerospace, batteries, roads, concrete, and carbon fiber open up, and carbon nanotubes become a $100 billion market. And no one else can compete with us on technology or on price.“

In the past two years, Saratoga Energy has received over $2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the California Energy Commission, which are interested in the potential for more affordable carbon nanotubes to dramatically improve charging speeds and performance for electrical vehicles and grid applications. 

“Our inexpensive nanotubes allow manufacturers to make electric-vehicle batteries that charge three times faster than they do today,” Reid said. “When charging your car’s battery only takes as long as stopping at the gas station for a fill-up, that’s a game-changer for electric vehicles. “

Another benefit of Saratoga Energy’s technology: It turns carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — into nanotubes.

“Given the potential variety of uses and potential volume of the market for Saratoga Energy’s nanotubes, Saratoga Energy’s manufacturing process could help to address climate change in a number of ways,” Reid said.

Saratoga Energy was accepted into the winter 2019 Y Combinator class — the largest and most selective class to date. Y Combinator invests in each company and helps founders develop their ideas and products to the point where they become attractive for larger-scale investments. 

“Participating in Y Combinator’s program for start-ups has been the most stressful and most rewarding experience in formation of Saratoga Energy so far,” Reid said. “They invest in you because they believe in you, and it’s intense – you do a lot in three months.” 

NSF grant will help commercialize Saratoga Energy’s battery-boosting nanotubes

Saratoga Energy has won a National Science Foundation grant to scale up its breakthrough process for generating low-cost, top quality carbon nanotubes from carbon dioxide for use in making high-performance Lithium ion batteries, such as those used in electric vehicles, grid storage, and military and aerospace applications.

The $723,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant will allow Saratoga Energy to increase production from 100 grams of carbon nanotubes per day to one kilogram per day. That pilot-scale level of production will help the company sell nanotubes to research labs and small customers as it further develops and tests its product, and gains traction in the advanced-battery marketplace.

Manufacturers use carbon nanotubes as a conductive additive along with anode and cathode materials as part of the battery-making process. The technique improves cycle life and power performance, resulting in batteries that last longer and charge and discharge more quickly.

“Right now, carbon nanotubes for this type of use cost $250 per kilogram,” said Saratoga Energy CEO Drew Reid. “Our new process will allow us to sell them for $5 to $15 per kilogram. And our carbon nanotubes aren’t only cheaper, they’re easier for manufacturers to use: they have a lower surface area than other carbon nanotubes, so they’re less likely to clump together when they’re mixed into the electrode slurries.”

Saratoga Energy serendipitously discovered its process for making 99.95 percent pure carbon nanotubes while working on another battery innovation entirely. The company was developing a process that synthesized graphite from carbon dioxide to enable cheaper, faster-charging batteries when it realized it had invented a new and better way to make carbon nanotubes, as well. These two innovations have helped the Saratoga team win a series of grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the NSF, and the California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development program.

In big-picture terms, Saratoga Energy’s goal is to enable better batteries for a clean-energy future. Improving batteries is considered key to incorporating larger quantities of intermittent solar and wind energy into the grid. Developing more affordable, more powerful batteries is also considered essential when it comes to expanding the use of electric vehicles.

DOE awards Saratoga Energy $1 million commercialization grant for lithium-ion battery technology

Saratoga Energy — whose breakthrough process for synthesizing graphite from carbon dioxide could revolutionize lithium-ion battery production — has won a million-dollar Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Department of Energy to help commercialize its innovation.

“Graphite is an essential material in advanced lithium-ion batteries,” said Drew Reid, Saratoga Energy’s CEO.  “Our process produces graphite more sustainably and affordably than traditionally-sourced graphite, which is mined in Asia or synthesized from petroleum.”

In addition to offering sustainable sourcing and cost benefits, Saratoga Energy’s graphite also has performance advantages. Graphite made with its patented process can charge and discharge more quickly, making it ideal for electric vehicle customers.

“People can spend less time plugged in and more time driving, which helps EVs be more competitive with gas vehicles,” said Reid.

Additionally, the company’s graphite – which is synthesized from carbon dioxide – has a negligible carbon footprint, making it attractive to companies committed to sustainability.

The DOE SBIR program is designed to advance clean energy technologies that show good potential for commercial success and job creation, and businesses across the country compete for the grants. Berkeley, California-based Saratoga Energy won the $1 million grant based on a promising prototype funded by a DOE SBIR Phase I grant awarded last year.

“To get a Phase II grant, you have to show a clear and logical path toward commercialization. We have a few more steps to go before commercialization, and this grant will help get us there,” Reid said.  

The SBIR Phase II grant will help Saratoga establish a pilot production facility, ramp up production, and optimize processes.  It will also go toward demonstrating fast-charging capability in large-format lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Saratoga Energy’s plans include scaling up production tenfold, to about 1 kilogram per day; sharing samples with interested companies developing batteries for electric vehicles; and further refining the company’s production and post-production processes.

Affordable, high-performance lithium-ion batteries are considered critical to the emerging clean energy economy, from incorporating renewable energy into the electric grid to furthering the deployment of electric vehicles.

Saratoga wins California grant to support its work on carbon nanotubes for grid storage

Saratoga Energy’s effort to synthesize carbon nanotubes for use in high-powered, long-lived batteries for electric grid storage has won a Concept Award from the California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) program.

Saratoga Energy is synthesizing carbon nanotubes from carbon dioxide, and using them to enhance the performance of lithium ion batteries while also reducing battery costs and energy requirements.

Saratoga Energy was one of eight start-up companies selected from a field of more than 300 applicants to receive a $150,000 grant in the first round of funding granted by the new CalSEED Concept Award program. CalSEED, which aims to fund promising energy entrepreneurs with very early-stage concepts, is funded by the California Energy Commission and is administered by the California Clean Energy Fund.

“Carbon nanotubes have high electrical conductivity, high thermal conductivity, and high strength,” said Drew Reid, Saratoga Energy’s CEO.  “We believe using the nanotubes could extend batteries’ cycle life, which is especially important when you’re talking about batteries used to store energy for the electrical grid.”

Saratoga Energy’s nanotubes may also make grid-scale energy storage safer. The grant will help Saratoga Energy test the thermal stability of the product, as carbon nanotubes are good conductors of thermal energy and can help prevent hot spots and thermal runaway in batteries.

Affordable, reliable, high-performance batteries are considered critical to incorporating a growing amount of intermittent renewable energy — such as solar and wind power—into the electrical grid. California has an energy storage mandate, which requires utilities to boost their energy storage capacity.

“With the growth in renewable generation, California’s electric grid needs reliable energy storage,” said Deepa Lounsbury, Program Manager of CalSEED. “Saratoga Energy’s unique approach could end up playing a major role in our state’s clean energy future.”

DOE grant to help Saratoga Energy make battery-boosting carbon nanotubes from CO2

Saratoga Energy has won a Department of Energy grant to help develop its breakthrough method for manufacturing low-cost carbon nanotubes from carbon dioxide. The nanotubes will be used make cheaper and longer-lasting batteries for electric vehicles.

The $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant will advance the company’s carbon nanotube synthesis process, and help demonstrate the performance of thick-electrode, high-energy batteries manufactured with carbon nanotubes (CNTs).

“Carbon nanotubes could enable low-cost, high-energy lithium-ion batteries that address the range limitations of electric vehicles,” said Drew Reid, Saratoga Energy’s CEO. “And the price is right: we have the potential to manufacture CNTs for under $5 per kilogram, which is 20 times cheaper than the current market.”

Carbon nanotubes have high electrical conductivity, high thermal conductivity, and high strength that allows them to be used for structural purposes, which can save battery space.

“We are looking at making thick but conductive electrodes for lithium-ion batteries,” Reid said. “That would allow us to pack more energy into the same size battery, because it minimizes structural materials that don’t add energy density.”

Saratoga Energy is using the nanotubes as a conductive additive, to be mixed in with active materials in batteries. The technique should improve cycle life and power performance, resulting in batteries that last longer and charge and discharge more quickly.

This is the company’s second SBIR Phase I granted by the DOE in two years. In 2016, the DOE granted Saratoga Energy $150,000 to research a process to synthesize graphite from carbon dioxide. The team recently won an additional million-dollar DOE grant to work toward commercialization on the graphite technology. Saratoga Energy serendipitously devised its carbon nanotubes process during its graphite research.

The DOE SBIR grant allows Berkeley, California-based Saratoga Energy to work with world-class researchers and equipment at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee. Saratoga Energy’s preliminary research suggests its synthesis process could be 90 times less energy-intensive than current state-of-the-art processes for manufacturing carbon nanotubes.

NSF grant helps Saratoga Energy perfect processes for advanced batteries

Grant funds access to top experts and facilities

A $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help Saratoga Energy speed development of electrolytically synthesized graphite for better, cheaper advanced batteries for electric vehicles, electronics and the grid.  

The project will focus on using supercritical fluids extraction to reduce the purification time, energy cost, and the environmental footprint of Saratoga Energy’s electrolytically synthesized graphite.

“At the end of the project, we hope to have a process that meets requirements for maximum graphite purity and is efficient in terms of energy costs and capital, as well,” said Chief Technology Officer Benjamin Rush.

Traditionally, graphite — an essential material in lithium-ion batteries — is either synthesized from petroleum or sourced from poorly regulated, highly polluting Chinese mines. In contrast, Saratoga Energy’s patented electrochemical process synthesizes graphite from clean, American sources of carbon dioxide, producing graphite that costs up to 70 percent less that allows batteries to charge three to five times faster.

Graphite used for batteries must be high purity, and that’s where the NSF grant comes in. The grant will allow Berkeley, California-based Saratoga Energy to partner with Applied Separations, a leader in supercritical fluids and separation sciences based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Last year, Saratoga Energy won Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Voucher grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. This year, it hopes to set up a pilot manufacturing plant and begin to engage potential clients.  


DOE grants will bring Saratoga Energy advanced battery materials closer to market

Working with national labs will speed progress on cheaper, better energy storage

October 11, 2016 – Two new Department of Energy grants will help Saratoga Energy accelerate efforts to bring its breakthrough battery technology to market.

The grants, totaling $355,000, are part of the DOE’s highly competitive Small Business Vouchers pilot program. They are designed to give the nation’s most promising clean-energy innovators access to the unparalleled expertise and facilities available through the national laboratory system.

“The grants give us access to veteran researchers and cutting-edge facilities we simply don’t have in-house,” said Drew Reid, Saratoga Energy’s CEO. “It’s massively more efficient to get our technology market-ready while collaborating with national labs than it would be to do it on our own.”

Saratoga Energy’s patented electrochemical process synthesizes graphite—an essential material in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, electronics, and renewable energy for the grid—from carbon dioxide.

Traditionally, graphite is either synthesized from petroleum or mined at poorly regulated, highly polluting mines in China. Saratoga Energy’s process relies on clean, American feedstock to produce graphite that costs up to 70 percent less, while allowing batteries to charge three to five times faster.

One Small Business Voucher grant, worth $300,000, will allow Saratoga Energy to spend a year working with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to help refine techniques for purifying graphite, with an eye on speed, costs and energy efficiency.  

The other grant, worth $55,000, will pay for Saratoga Energy to spend half a year working with researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California to carry out in-depth testing using lithium-ion test cells.

The Small Business Voucher awards are the second and third competitive Department of Energy grants Saratoga Energy has won this year. The company is using a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Grant announced this past spring to demonstrate its material’s performance on the prototype scale.

Saratoga Energy wins DOE grant to help build a better battery

Company’s innovation allows cheaper, faster charging for electric cars and the grid  

June 6, 2016 - Saratoga Energy – which has patented a process that could revolutionize battery production for electric vehicles, the grid and other applications – has won a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Department of Energy.

Saratoga Energy’s inexpensive electrochemical process synthesizes graphite from carbon dioxide. Graphite is an essential material in advanced lithium-ion batteries. Traditionally, it is either mined in China or synthesized from petroleum.  But Saratoga Energy uses carbon dioxide to synthesize graphite less expensively.

“We expect our material to be about 70 percent cheaper than the graphite currently used in making lithium ion batteries, and that will help cut down on battery costs,” said Drew Reid, Saratoga Energy’s CEO.

“In addition, our material will allow batteries to charge about three to five times faster,” Reid said. 

The DOE grant is designed to help Berkeley, California-based Saratoga Energy develop a prototype. The company might also be eligible for a much bigger follow-up grant.

“We have $150,000 and nine months to demonstrate the material’s performance on a prototype scale,” Reid said.  “If that goes well, we hope to win a second-round grant that can help us set up a pilot production facility.”

Affordable high-performance batteries are considered critical to the emerging clean energy economy, from incorporating renewable energy into the electric grid to furthering the deployment of electric vehicles.

“This is a highly competitive grant program, and it gives Saratoga Energy both capital and validation,” said Alex Luce, program manager of CalCharge, a public-private energy storage consortium that counts Saratoga Energy among its members. “Winning this grant suggests that the company might be onto something big.”