Battelle licenses smartphone battery technology

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writerJanuary 31, 2013 

Smartphones could charge in minutes with technology for improved batteries licensed by Battelle for commercialization.

Vorbeck Materials of Jessup, Md., has been awarded the exclusive license to bring to market technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, PNNL announced Wednesday. Battelle manages PNNL for the Department of Energy and any profits will be used for the national lab and its operation.

The agreement allows Vorbeck to bring rechargeable batteries to market that are expected to allow smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles to recharge in a fraction of the time now required.

The new technology also doubles the amount of energy rechargeable lithium batteries can store and increase the batteries' stability, said PNNL spokeswoman Franny White.

Vorbeck, a startup company using PNNL technology, previously held a licensing option for battery technology. Last year Energy Secretary Steven Chu named it one of three nationwide winners in "America's Next Top Energy Innovator" challenge.

Vorbeck also signed a cooperative research and development agreement for PNNL rechargeable battery technologies and methods in 2010.

Battelle now has licensed a broad portfolio of patents to Vorbeck related to rechargeable lithium batteries.

The patents include technology -- advanced through research at PNNL, Princeton University and Vorbeck -- that allows titanium dioxide to replace more expensive materials used today in rechargeable batteries.

But because titanium dioxide does not perform well on its own, PNNL researchers collaborated with Vorbeck to develop a method for building tiny titanium oxide and carbon structures.

They demonstrated that small quantities of patented graphene -- a good electronic conductor made from ultra-thin sheets of carbon atoms -- can dramatically improve how rapidly the batteries can be recharged. The patented graphene technology initially was developed at Princeton University.

Prototypes of Vorbeck's battery technologies were on display earlier this month at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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