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VA-based start-up exclusively licenses ORNL technologies, will locate facilities in East TN

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced last Friday that its has exclusively licensed five patented technologies to Safire Technology Group.

The McLean, VA-based start-up, formerly known as BTRY, plans to locate facilities in East Tennessee as part of its plan to commercialize the liquid-to-solid battery technology. Collectively, the technologies are designed for a drop-in additive for lithium-ion batteries that prevents explosions and fire from impact.

As noted in this ORNL news release, the potential for battery cells to catch fire or explode when impacted — such as in a car crash — and cause property loss, serious injuries or deaths is a major challenge in the adoption of battery technology for electric vehicles and aircraft, such as unmanned aerial vehicles. ORNL’s Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte, or SAFIRE, technology removes this risk through a new electrolyte formulation that changes from liquid to solid upon impact.

In a lithium-ion battery, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes. If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer fails, the electrodes can come into contact and cause the battery’s liquid electrolyte to catch fire. In SAFIRE, the electrolyte solidifies under impact, blocking contact between electrodes. The technology can also significantly reduce vehicle weight and increase range by removing the need for heavy protective shielding around the battery.

“Improving battery technology is critical to building a clean energy future for our country,” said Susan Hubbard, ORNL Deputy for Science and Technology. “This technology has implications for several industries, ultimately making battery systems safer, more efficient and more stable.”

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