A bigger step would be to develop a commercially viable anode made completely from silicon. But the element has traits that make this difficult. When graphite absorbs lithium ions, its volume does not change much. A silicon anode, however, swells to four times its original volume in the same scenario.
The conventional wisdom is to replace, say, 10% of the graphite in a battery anode with silicon metal or oxide, improving density without introducing too much swelling. Sila is taking a different approach.
The humble lithium-ion battery has built up such a commanding lead in the market that competing technologies may struggle to catch up. That lead will only widen as a wave of planned new lithium-ion factories comes online in the next five years.
For powering your smartphone or your Tesla, the lithium-ion battery is industry standard, and has been for nearly 30 years. Now, as the world races toward an electric future, the next big breakthrough in battery tech could be just around the corner.
“The material required for one car is the equivalent of 10,000 smartphones or 100,000 smart watches,” said Berdichevsky. “We’ll be in consumer devices to start. Over the next five years, we’ll scale up with automotive partners.” One of Sila’s current auto partners is BMW.
One of Tesla’s earliest engineering leaders, Berdichevsky wanted to make a new kind of lithium-ion battery, one that would represent the first meaningful advance in power storage in more than 20 years. By using ultra-efficient silicon rather than graphite to store the ions that provide the charge, he believed his company, Sila Nanotechnologies, could accelerate the world’s transition to renewable energy.