Bess-Tech, Besstech is an Albany-based startup company dedicated to the development of components that greatly enhance the performance of lithium-ion batteries. The company is a spinoff from SUNY’s College of Nanotech Science and Engineering where its founders developed a silicon-based nanowire technology.
Besstech got its start with the development of silicon-based nanowires for use as lithium-ion anodes as a replacement for graphite. Silicon can hold up to eleven times more lithium per unit weight than graphite. The drawback for its use has been the pulverization and degradation of silicon upon cycling, and the growth over time of an interface barrier between the anode and the electrolyte that limits the lifetime of the battery. By use of a novel nickel doping process for the nanowires, Besstech has been able to stabilize the interface resulting in a superior anode that triples energy density and provides a tenfold reduction in charging time without compromising lifetime.
In addition, Besstech developed a functional silicon-based anode fabricated with a single CVD step, eliminating the need for solution chemistry staples such as carbon, binders, and solvents. The company believes that the processing of these silicon-based anodes leads to significant cost advantages over conventional anodes along with the performance gains. Conventional anode manufacturing is very process-intensive requiring (among other things) solvent recovery systems, dry rooms, drying tunnels, and large floor space. The silicon-based anode process is significantly simpler and cost competitive. Besstech sees the primary applications for these anodes to be for high-power and fast-charging battery applications such as in electric cars and in military applications.
The company has been developing a volume CVD process for making the anodes and plans to use third-party fabricators with high-volume processing capability for manufacturing its product. The doped nanowire structure is grown on commercial current collectors (stainless steel or copper foils) and can even be grown on more exotic materials such as metal foams and 3D substrates, which can provide weight reduction and power increase in batteries. Besstech plans to directly provide its anode components to battery manufacturers, but is also amenable to licensing arrangements.
A second area of activity at Besstech is the development of reduced graphene oxide (RGO) for use as current collectors or as anodes. This highly conductive and porous material has metallic conductivity and can also hold lithium, therefore providing improved gravimetric and volumetric capacity for electrodes. The high porosity leads to a superfast charging rate. These type components are of particular interest to automakers as they hold great promise in reducing the weight, the charging time, and the cost of electric car batteries. The synthesis method for this anode material was developed by RPI. Besstech and RPI have an exclusive agreement to continue to develop the technology, and with the support of NYSERDA will continue to drive the commercial development of RGO.
A third and most recent area of interest at Besstech is in the area of solid-state thin-film hybrid battery/capacitors. The primary application area for these devices is for wearable devices where extending the life and reducing the charging time for a very small and lightweight battery is paramount.
Besstech’s co-founder and CEO, Fernando Gómez-Baquero, explains that
“At Besstech we are rethinking the way Li-ion battery components are made. Today the world uses a Li-ion battery technology that was invented in the 1970s. At Besstech we believe that it is time to reinvent Li-ion batteries and make them work for the 21st century"
The company currently has four full-time employees, research contracts with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and RPI, plus engagements with several consultants with extensive experience in semiconductor manufacturing, in finance, and in corporate development. Since its founding in 2010, the company has licensed the silicon-based technology from CNSE, acquired exclusive options for intellectual property from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute related to graphene anode materials, and filed its own patent applications related to lithium ion energy storage components and devices subsequently developed. The company has received overall over $1.2 million in grants and awards from NYSERDA and NSF along with $300 thousand in private investments. Besstech is currently seeking a second seed round of funding as well as investigating a variety of strategic partnerships.
Besstech has been extensively benchmarking its silicon-based anodes for the past year and has been working with a number of potential manufacturing partners and customers. It anticipates initial orders in the first half of next year. The graphene anode technology is still in the development stage but the company expects that product line to reach the market by the end of next year. The solid-state battery technology is likely to be about a year behind the first two product lines.
With a growing portfolio of unique technologies, Besstech is positioning itself as a fabless battery component and device company whose products can greatly enhance the performance and lower the cost of lithium ion batteries.