Supporting new developments in personal computers, mobile telecommunications and electronic vehicles, the worldwide battery market has experienced rapid growth in the last three decades, with global battery capacity more than doubling from 2010 to 2015 alone. The lithium ion batteries that abound today are small, lightweight and high-powered, but because of their energy density they present a risk of fire or explosion when they malfunction or are punctured–a challenge receiving attention by Wisconsin-based startup.
Silatronix, founded in 2007 and based in Madison, Wisconsin, makes high-performance organosilicon compounds that can be used in lithium ion and other batteries to drastically improve stability and efficiency. With its OS3 material, lithium ion batteries can be higher-powered, lighter and safer, and last longer under normal operating conditions. Batteries with the company’s technology also display superior performance, losing less of their charging capacity over time, compared to currently available technologies.
After nearly a decade of research and development, co-founders Robert Hamers and Robert West are ready to commercialize this innovative technology they developed as chemistry professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). The defense, automotive and consumer electronics sectors are expected to be early adopters of these next-generation batteries, which the company believes have the potential to revolutionize the energy storage industry as they become widely adopted.
“This technology has the potential for major impact on future battery applications, including stronger telecommunications power, thinner rechargeable batteries and higher-powered motors in wheelchairs,” said Carl Thoemmes, vice president of sales for Silatronix.
Silatronix has received $8.5 million in federal grant funding, including grants from the Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command and the National Science Foundation, as well as a grant from the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund and a Technology Development Loan from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). It also has raised $17 million in venture capital investment, due in part to its certification by WEDC as a Qualified New Business Venture.
Although Silatronix’s growth has been accelerated by both national and state funding, the company also benefits from Madison’s atmosphere of innovation and the abundance of talent there. “Our proximity to UW-Madison has been of great value—we work in conjunction with the research group of Professor of Chemistry Robert Hamers, and many of the company’s staff are graduates of the university,” said Thoemmes. “And, Madison’s rich network connects startups with one another and with potential funding options.”
In addition to tapping into Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial resources and skilled talent pool, Silatronix has received funding from local investors the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Venture Investors and the Pyle Group.
It doesn’t stop there. The presence of battery industry giants means Silatronix can tap into valuable expertise as it continues to grow. “Southern Wisconsin’s status as a center of expertise in areas important to the development of high-tech batteries, such as electro-chemistry and organosilicon technology, is important to us,” added Thoemmes. “We are fortunate to have leaders like Rayovac and Johnson Controls, as well as multiple smaller companies, right here in Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial landscape offers numerous resources to companies looking to launch successfully or continue growing. More information about other entrepreneurial resources can be found on WEDC’s website.