Many companies have set out to improve the cathode side of a battery's heart. A battery startup in the U.K., however, wants to create better anodes for lithium-ion batteries.
Nexeon has raised £10 million ($14.37 million) for developing silicon-based anodes to prolong a battery's life, said PUK Ventures, which put in £1 million in this round. Invesco Perpetual contributed £5 million while Imperial Innovations ponied up in £4 million for the round. The battery startup, raised a £4.25 million ($6.11 million) round in 2007.
Founded by Mino Green, an emeritus professor at the Imperial College London, Nexeon plans to use the money to demonstrate its technology at its pilot production line, according to the PUK press release.
A battery is made up of cells, and each cell has two major parts: the cathode and the anode. Chemical reactions create the electrons (negatively charged ions) to flow one way from the anode to the cathode while the positively charged ions move through another path. To build a more powerful battery, researchers have to figure out ways to build anodes and cathodes that can store more ions in order to hold more charge.
Battery startups such as Boston-Power and Imara are focusing on developing the right chemistry for the cathode for lithium-ion batteries (see A Battery with Multiple Personalities and Boston-Power Gets $55M More to Produce Lithium-Ion Batteries).
Nexeon's Website offers scant information. So it's unclear whether the company is targeting the electronics business, such as laptops, or the emerging markets of electric cars. The startup said it's been around for three years, and has developed equipment for making the silicon and electrodes, according to the PUK press release. Nexeon is looking for companies to license its technology.
Although Nexeon isn't revealing its silicon-based anode technology, plenty of other research has been done on this subject. Silicon makes for a good anode material than graphite because it has the highest known theoretical charge capacity, according to a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology in 2008. But the downside of using silicon is its capacity can fade significantly during charging and discharging – leading to a short battery life.