What we do: Gbatteries has developed a new way of controlling energy inside of lithium-ion batteries, which enables them to hold more capacity and not degrade over time. Their "BatteryBox" can charge a Macbook Air for 13 hours straight or fully charge an iPhone 11 times. Why it's a big deal: Gbatteries hasn't simply made a new battery; they've developed a new system called BatteryOS designed to reduce the degradation of batteries over time. Not only will the batteries last longer, but they will have a greater capacity than normal batteries. This technology could potentially become the standard for all lithium-ion batteries. With Gbatteries owning the patent for this technology, they are going to have incredible power (pun intended) in the $11.7Bn lithium-ion battery market (which is set to double by 2016) .
When most cell phone users get frustrated with their gadget’s declining battery life, they might replace the phone, start carrying a charger everywhere, or just whine. College chemistry student Tim Sherstyuk was more ambitious—he developed technology to make lithium ion batteries work better.
Sherstyuk took his problem to his dad, Nick Sherstyuk, an electrical engineer with experience analyzing battery and power management systems. Together, they began testing their ideas in their Ottawa basement. In their first test, they were surprised when an old BlackBerry battery didn’t just stop dying, it actually regenerated its capacity—going from 50% of its original capacity to 90%. The team co-founded Gbatteries and developed BatteryOS, a battery management system designed to provide better performance in lithium ion batteries.
“Once we optimize our algorithm, we are confident that we could increase the life of the battery up to 15 years of normal function without degradation,” Nick Sherstyuk says. “I think it will be really funny in the future to think of how it was done before, because it makes no sense.”
How it works
Instead of inventing a new battery, Gbatteries has come up with a new way to control the energy inside existing lithium ion batteries. The technology stops batteries from degrading, a process that often happens because a protective layer inside the battery—the SEI layer—grows over time, keeping the battery from charging as well as it did initially, Tim says. (The scientific specifics: as a battery charges, lithium ions move between two structures, the cathode and the anode, carrying chemical byproducts that stick on the SEI layer, permanently bonding and weakening your battery.) Gbatteries’ technology keeps the byproducts from sticking, saving your battery.
“Generally a lithium ion battery, if it’s been charged to 100%, in about five years it would degrade to 60% total capacity,” Tim says. “In our tests, that same battery controlled by our system would be at 97%.”
Since batteries running the technology don’t degrade, BatteryOS can use batteries to their full potential—many devices undercharge batteries since they degrade most quickly when charged to 100%, Tim says. The system has financial benefits, too. Current battery packs are made up of cells that are interconnected, so one weak cell can bring down the performance of the entire battery. Gbatteries controls each cell individually so it can use a variety of cells, including low-cost ones.
A new way of controlling energy
There are plenty of potential applications for BatteryOS, but the first is BatteryBox, a small portable battery for charging cell phones and MacBooks. The product, currently available for preorder and launching next fall, has enough juice to power 12 hours of MacBook Air, six hours of MacBook Pro or eight iPhones. The battery is designed to last 3,000 charge cycles and to retain 96% of capacity after five years.
“What we found is that it’s really easy to get interest from companies to implement BatteryOS into their products, but each company has a different sale cycle and it takes awhile to get implemented,” Tim says. “We decided to take control of our own destiny a little bit and showcase our technology as soon as possible.”
Another prime use of the technology is in storing energy from electrical power plants (which waste energy during the low-demand night and charge higher prices during peak daytime hours) as well as solar and wind facilities. The founders have already begun working with a solar energy company. An added sustainable use for BatteryOS: the software’s potential to improve electric car batteries, which could make the sustainable cars a viable mass-market solution, Tim says.
While BatteryOS’ applications are diverse, Nick says that working with the lithium ion batteries that are already in wide use means quick progress should be possible.
“We are using generic electronic parts … so for us to implement our technology doesn’t require changing materials or components,” he says. “What is needed is changing the architecture of the battery and the algorithms. This is doable in a short period of time.”
How long do you think you can extend the life of a battery?
Once we optimize our algorithm we are confident we can increase the battery life to 15 years of normal function without degradation. Our limitations are rooted in the life of the component materials, for instance polyethylene degrades after 15 years. There is no practical reason for the actual battery cell to degrade.
Why launch BatteryBox instead of only focusing on enterprise sales?
What we’ve found is that it is really easy for us to get companies interested in implementing our battery OS into their products. But every company has a different sales cycle, and it takes a while to get our technology integrated into their products. So we decided to take control of our own destiny, and showcase our technology as soon as possible by launching BatteryBox along with a campaign to make it available for preorder.
What keeps you up at night?
Getting mass scale testing of our technology. Right now we’ve proved to ourselves that this really works but the battery industry has very stringent testing standards. Each company we approach uses different battery models and wants to see testing on the exact battery that they use. We are running a battery management system which is far less risky to implement than new cell technology would be. But companies are so nervous given all the horror stories in the market that they want testing for their exact product.
What do you understand about your space that others don’t?
We come at this not from the typical battery engineering perspective. The typical scenario is a room full of PhDs tasked with making a battery better. Years of schooling and study has limited the way they think about battery optimization. Which isn’t to say they haven’t made improvements, technology has improved tremendously. But there are many more ways to improve a battery from a control perspective - an electrical perspective. We’ve thought about what is happening to the ions when exposed to energy, and how to make ‘life’ for the ions easier in this environment.
What will the money from this round go towards?
What need to hire people to help us run mass scale testing. We have all the key components in place to get everything started. But need to test over 500 channels which requires full time employees. We’ll also use some of the funding to validate our process through a third party lab, and fulfill contracts that require some initial capital.
What do you need to prove before large commercial applications will adopt your system and how long will it take?
We need to prove that our system passes the litany of industry battery tests. Companies want to see that the specific battery they use has been thoroughly tested before they’ll even consider adopting our technology.
Apart from preventing degradation, what else does your tech do for batteries?
We can take an old cell with low capacity, run it a few cycles in our system, and its capacity will be back in the 90-100% range. Needless to say, we were surprised to find that our technology can actually regenerate battery capacity.
How does battery degradation work and how do you prevent it?
The main reason a battery degrades is because of what we call the SEI layer. It’s a protective layer inside the battery, that grows over time stopping the battery from charging as much as it used to. Imagine a battery pack with two structures - a cathode and an anode. The SEI layer is surrounding the anode. As the battery is charged the lithium ions move from one end to the other. As chemical reactions are happening, the ions carry with them little chemical byproducts from the cathode to the anode. As the ions move through through the structure, the SEI layer captures the chemical byproducts causing it to grow over time.
Our solution is to electronically shake the battery, jostling the ions back and forth while shaking the chemical byproducts free and never allowing them to stick to the SEI layer.
What application is most interesting for you?
Electric cars are definitely most exciting for us. Even if you don’t think about the environmental consequences, oil is a finite resource that is running out. The future is obvious. Electric cars can be the solution if we can solve the issue of battery degradation. Our technology is that solution and can really make an electric car a viable option for everyone.
Another application is in energy storage and allocation for the grid. Utility companies struggle to supply energy during peak hours, while energy consumption falls dramatically at night. During off peak they cannot afford to stop operations, and this energy produced is largely wasted. The impression that we are out of energy is wrong, there is plenty of energy being produced with no where to go. Current ‘solutions’ don’t work well enough to solve this issue - batteries are expensive and more importantly degrade quickly. Now our technology is a viable answer for energy storage on the grid.
GB is conducting a Regulation D offering via Wefunder Advisors LLC. CRD Number: #167803.
Father-and-son co-founders Tim and Nick Sherstyuk are relocating to Silicon Valley from Ottawa with their startup which claims that its BatteryOS technology can keep the capacity of power packs on phones and other devices at close to 100 percent after years of use and recharging.
The company claims that if the Chevy Volt used BatteryOS, it would have twice the range, and last 8 years longer. The company did not explain how its product works, but did allude to having orders for units in the tens of thousands. Learn more about BatteryOS from TechCrunch’s coverage here.
But this isn’t just about a portable battery backup for MacBooks and other gadgets — it’s about a new battery management system designed to reduce the degradation of batteries over time. That technology is being embedded into the BatteryBox itself, which will withstand 3,000 full charge and discharge cycles and still have 96 percent of its capacity available after five years.
March 24, 2014
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