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Speakers at MIT Enterprise Forum Promote the Benefits of Clean Energy Storage

LifeCel Technology of Goleta is helping lead the charge with its development of a lithium-ion battery

The missing link in renewable energy, according to UCSB professor Daniel Morse, is properly storing clean energy so it can be transported efficiently and called upon when needed.

Morse, a professor of biochemistry and engineering at UCSB and founder of LifeCel Technology, and David Auston, executive director of the UCSB Institute for Energy Efficiency and Center for Energy Efficient Materials, discussed clean energy storage Wednesday night at the MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast.

Auston said gasoline-powered motors are about 25 percent efficient while most energy is emitted as waste heat. Power plants operate at about 30 percent efficiency, and buildings at about 50 percent.

“It is estimated that at least 30 percent of total energy consumed in the U.S. is not only wasted, but could be captured and saved through more efficient technology deployment,” he said.

Electric vehicles and renewable energy sources won’t be widely deployed unless storage costs decrease and the process becomes more efficient, according to Auston. He said that’s where companies such as LifeCel Technology and Transphorm come into play.

Morse and a UCSB team founded the Goleta-based startup LifeCel, which developed a cheap, high-power and safe lithium-ion battery.

Morse said LifeCel batteries have 50 percent more energy capacity, use 70 percent less platinum and are 11 times more powerful than commercial batteries.

“It’s a biologically inspired approach to making nanostructured components for more efficient batteries,” he said. “We also create next-generation fuel cells, a kind of hybrid between a generation of power source and means of transforming the energy content of that gasoline, hydrogen or alcohol to electricity.”

Typical commercial batteries added silicon to the graphite to increase the energy and power. But Morse said the problem is that silicon swells when ions go through it, it shrinks when the ions are discharged, and the silicon breaks apart and loses the connectivity to the leads that power the device.

LifeCel creates nanocrystals of tin inside graphite or carbon nanotube structures to increase power and improves safety through its fire-proof barium strontium titanate nanocrystalline ceramic. Morse said the technology can extend the battery life in notebooks, smartphones and other portable electronics and battery can be charged or discharged in less than two minutes.

“The higher cyclability and stability of the batteries increases safety, and LifeCel offers readily scalable manufacturing,” Morse said. “It’s a generic platform technology, and we can work with a wide variety of metal oxides and a wide variety of matrix supports to make the nanocomposites, so there are a wide range of applications.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkBiz, @noozhawk and @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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