ASU startup receives funding to advance fire-safe battery research

An Arizona State University startup that licensed breakthrough fire-safe lithium-ion and lithium-metal battery technology received a funding boost to further validate its research.

Safe-Li, the startup that holds the exclusive license to commercialize the technology from Skysong Innovations, ASU’s technology transfer partner that facilitated the commercialization and patent process, was accepted into Shell’s GameChanger Program and awarded $300,000 in seed funding.

The program helps startups with unproven early-stage ideas that have the potential to impact the future of energy. Safe-Li will receive support and expertise from the GameChanger team but will maintain independence to make its own decisions.

“GameChanger saw the uniqueness in the technology. We’re honored to represent the science and ASU. We have the right product and plan to bring it forward to the world,” said Chris Dee, chief operating officer and co-founder of Safe-Li.

The grant will be used to further research with ASU Regents Professor Jerry Lin’s technology and validate it as a coin cell battery, similar to what is used in key fobs. Once the science is validated on a coin cell battery, Safe-Li can begin validation on a multilayer pouch battery and seek out co-innovation partners from battery manufacturers. The initial validation is expected to be wrapped up within 12 months.

“The market is solving the symptoms of the fire issue, not the science. Dr. Lin has uniquely solved the science. He’s found a scientific approach to create a fire-safe lithium-ion battery,” Dee said, adding that this technology will improve the safety of electric vehicles, energy storage stations and further enable the transition of renewable energy into society.

Lin, inventor of the technologies and chief scientist at Safe-Li, developed the patent-pending technology that is expected to revolutionize the battery industry and make them safer. He created a unique coating method that will add a step to current battery manufacturing to make the batteries fire safe. The technologies also improve battery performance and longevity at higher charge-discharge rates by as much as three to five times.

“Lithium-ion batteries have become the energy storage media of choice in modern consumer electronic devices, electric drivetrain vehicles, commercial power tools and grid storage,” said Lin, who is also a professor of chemical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. “However, multiple incidents of fire hazards and explosions have raised concerns related to the safety of the current and next-generation lithium-ion battery systems. Our technology, once scaled up, will enable fabrication of fire-safe, high-performance lithium-ion batteries for various energy storage applications. Furthermore, the platform technology we are developing can be extended to make lithium-metal batteries with higher energy density, which will have a big impact on developing long-range batteries for electrical vehicles.”

When Safe-Li exits the GameChanger program, it expects to have a commercial-ready design for a multi-layer pouch cell battery. At that stage, the technology can be accelerated and scaled up for broader applications in the marketplace.

Michelle Stermole