Bill Gates backs storage innovator

Software tycoon Gates is one of the Aquion backers

Software tycoon Gates is one of the Aquion backers

US energy storage technologist Aquion Energy has landed $35m in new funding from investors including Microsoft founder Bill Gates to push its “environmentally benign” aqueous hybrid ion (AHI) battery to commercial roll-out.

The financing round was led by Bright Capital with money from Gates, Gentry Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Advanced Technology Ventures.

Aquion says it will be delivering initial, pre-production AHI units to “selected lead customers and partners” throughout 2013.

That will be followed by the shipping of first commercial batteries from its high-volume manufacturing plant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to “enable broad adoption of renewable energy technologies”.

The AHI battery system – based around a saltwater electrolyte, sodium ions, an activated carbon anode and manganese-oxide cathode, and cotton separator – is designed to be scaled from off- and micro-grid systems up to industrial energy storage, and grid-network applications.

Tests of prototype coin cells that followed the Sandia Nation Lab “partial state of charge” rapid cycling protocol showed a less than 10% capacity fade after more than 5,000 cycles at over 50% depth of discharge – a measure of a battery's state of charge.

Aquion’s AHI battery does not use corrosive reactions to store electrical energy, as is common for other battery chemistries such as lead-acid, meaning they do not need to be immediately charged once they have been discharged, and can held at a partial state of charge for “very long periods of time” without damage.

The batteries, which are non-toxic and contain no heavy metals, are also said to be “extremely fault tolerant” and can be short-circuited without causing an explosion or fire.

“Aquion has demonstrated the viability and potential disruptiveness of its novel energy storage technology. We expect Aquion’s products to be a key enabler for the emerging energy-storage industry that many experts predict will grow exponentially in the next decade,” says Bright Capital managing director Mikhail Chuchkevich.

Aquion chief executive Scott Pearson adds: “This group will provide critical operational and financial support to the company [in] launching our initial storage products and beginning to ramp the business in 2014 and beyond.”

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