With technology developed at the Imec research center, the spin-off SOLiTHOR wants to get the solid state battery going in the automotive sector. The company fills 10 million euros in start-up capital for that mission.
It is safer, more efficient and cheaper. With these features, it is not hard to understand why the solid-state battery has been considered the wet dream of electric car manufacturers for years. The only problem: the technology is not ready yet.
This is a problem that the newly founded start-up SOLiTHOR hopes to solve. With ten years of scientific research from the world-renowned Leuven research center Imec, the company wants to usher in a new era in battery technology. For this, it can count on EUR 10 million in start-up capital from a round of financing led by the tech fund imec.xpand and supported by state investors LRM, FPIM and Nuhma.
Current generation lithium-ion batteries use a liquid electrolyte to move ions between the anode and cathode. Solid-state batteries replace the liquid electrolyte with a solid, which has a number of advantages in terms of, among other things, energy density and size.
Our technology is revolutionary in several ways.
This has worked well for decades on a small scale, such as with pacemakers. But producing them in a format that can drive a car for a long time still belongs to the future. A lot of money is being pumped into research and development worldwide.
30 percent more
SOLiTHOR is convinced that its technology is an important step in the development of the automotive industry towards a “solid state”. “Our technology is revolutionary in several ways,” said Fanny Bardé, co-founder and chief technology officer of SOLiTHOR. »Compared to the current generation of batteries, the solid state battery has not only a much higher safety, but also a greater energy density. You can do 30 percent more with our solid-state battery in the same volume. ‘
But perhaps even more striking is the fact that SOLiTHOR uses other components, which should make it easier and cheaper to produce the batteries on a large scale. ‘A lot of money is being invested in the development of giga factories for battery production,’ says Bardé. ‘Manufacturers want to keep them profitable for as long as possible. Our technology can be integrated into the production process that already exists, with minimal investment. ‘
Walk and run
There are still some steps that need to be taken before that happens. “We have to walk before we can run,” said Huw Hampson-Jones. The Briton, with considerable experience in developing high-tech start-ups, was recruited as CEO of SOLiTHOR. ‘We are absolutely sure that our cell technology works. We must now prove that we can connect these cells together in a way that is stable and functioning. Imec’s nanotechnology expertise will benefit from it. ‘
The automotive sector has very strict requirements in terms of battery reliability and safety.
If you can do that before you can hit the farm with your product, you have to prove thousands of times that your technology can be manufactured, says Hampson-Jones. “The car sector has very strict requirements for quality and reliability. One cannot come up with a prototype and say that it works. That’s what we want to do over the next three to five years: build a center of excellence here in Belgium that proves we can do what we say we can. ‘
Something is moving in Leuven
With a capital round of 10 million euros, SOLiTHOR is the second Imec spin-off in two weeks, filling a considerable amount. Last week, chipmaker Pharrowtech also raised 15 million euros.
In recent years, the business reflex at Imec has risen sharply, something that according to some critics has been lacking for far too long. Meanwhile, the IMEC is working on 22 spin-offs, which together are worth 250 million euros, says venture director Olivier Rousseaux. “We hope and believe that there are some rock star companies among them.”
In SOLiTHOR, Rousseaux sees a social value as well as an economic value. In relation to climate ambitions, which are driven by electrification, but also broader. “SOLiTHOR will contribute to Europe’s strategic positioning and independence in the energy sector,” said the leader. “The company will also have a positive impact on our local economy through the expected location of production activities in Flanders.”