Climate change / Battery technology / Lithium-ion batteries just made a big leap in a tiny product

Lithium-ion batteries just made a big leap in a tiny product
5 min read
fairly difficult
Sila's novel anode materials packed far more energy into a new Whoop fitness wearable. The company hopes to do the same soon for electric vehicles.
A materials company in Alameda, California, has spent the last decade working to boost the energy stored in lithium-ion batteries, an advance that could enable smaller gadgets and electric vehicles with far greater range.

Sila has developed silicon-based particles that can replace the graphite in anodes and hold more of the lithium ions that carry the current in a battery.

Now the company is delivering its product to the market for the first time, providing a portion of the anode powder in the battery of the forthcoming Whoop 4.0, a fitness wearable. It's a small device but potentially a big step forward for the battery field, where promising lab results often fail to translate to commercial success.

"Think of the Whoop 4.0 as our Tesla Roadster," says Gene Berdichevsky, Sila's CEO, who as Tesla's seventh employee helped solve some of the critical battery challenges for the company's first electric vehicle. "It's really the first device on the market that's proving this breakthrough."

Battery cells produced with Sila's silicon-based particles. SILA

The company's materials, with a light assist from other advances, increased the energy density in the fitness tracker's battery by around 17%. That's a significant gain in a field that generally inches forward by a few percentage points a year.

It's equivalent to about four years of standard progress, "but in one big jump," says Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Sila still faces some real technical challenges, but the advance is a promising sign for the potential of increasingly capable batteries to help the world shift away from fossil fuels as the dangers of climate change accelerate. Boosting the amount of energy that batteries can store makes it easier for increasingly clean electricity sources to power more of our buildings, vehicles, factories, and businesses.

For the transportation sector, a more energy-dense battery can reduce the costs or…
James Temple
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