Start-up Solithor has raised €10 million ($10.4 million) in seed funding for its plans to bring new solid-state lithium battery cells to market. The company, a spin-off from the Imec technology group, is targeting multiple applications for its new pouch cells, including electric aircraft.
The venture, which was established in January 2022, is operating from the EnergyVille research and development hub at Leuven in Belgium. It already has 20 staffers working to advance intellectual property owned by Imec.
Solithor’s co-founder and CEO is Huw Hampson-Jones, who formerly ran Oxis Energy, which went into administration in May 2021 and was then acquired by sustainable technologies group Johnson Matthey. The UK-based company had been developing lithium-sulfur batteries and had been a partner to electric aircraft developer Bye Aerospace.
“Solithor’s technology is unique and is based on breakthrough chemistry and components, [including] the nano-Solid Composite Electrolyte [nano-SCE] and the nano-anode, spearheaded within the EnergyVille labs and patented by Imec,” said Hampson-Jones. “This revolutionary technology will improve energy density, charging speeds and, crucially, increase safety and will be far easier to manufacture than other solid-state batteries.”
According to the company, a nano-SCE, which is not a sulfide, an oxide, or a polymer, does not need high operating temperatures to achieve high lithium-ion connectivity. Solithor says that the new solid-state cells will exceed the 800-Wh/l (300-Wh/kg) energy density ceiling that it maintains is the current limit of existing lithium-ion cells.
The company’s research and development program is being led by co-founder and chief technology officer Fanny Bardé. The battery technology expert will have access to Imec’s established product development teams.
“Charging speed should be at least at par with current technology,” Bardé explained to FutureFlight. “Our initial targets are to achieve 30 percent improvements compared with current lithium-ion batteries. If the best of those is in the range of 250 to 270 Wh/kg, then the range of improvement [would be] in the mid 325 to 350 range. If the best of current lithium-ion [technology] is around 600 to 650 WH/l then one could expect a range of 750 to 850 Wh/l.”
Solithor says it is at the early stage of discussions with several electric aviation companies from Europe and other regions with a view to developing new prototype cells and battery modules. The company indicated that these prospective applications are mainly focused on aircraft intended for regional air services, which will likely involve fixed-wing models.