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.