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Building a Better More Sustainable Battery with Group 14 Technologies Co-Founder and CTO, Rick Costantino

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Smartphones are incredible pieces of technology. They allow users the ability to track stars, text people around the world, purchase items at the ease of a click, map their next destination, and so much more. Their individual capabilities are truly remarkable.

“It’s crazy. And all of that is powered by the battery and all of that and really what limits it, the engineer’s imagination, you know, they’re, they, they know how much, how much they can get out of that in terms of the energy. And so imagine now, if you could get 50% more energy from your phone and do 50% more, more tasks that we hadn’t even thought of yet.”

That’s Rick Costantino, and while what he is saying may sound too good to be true, it’s not. On this episode of IT Visionaries, Rick dives into how Group 14 is reversing that trend by working to replace the traditional graphite anode with a silicon casing material. Plus, Rick touches on why silicon is the future of the battery industry, the impact it will have on devices that use  lithium-ion batteries, and how Group 14 is thriving despite some early stage struggles.

Main Takeaways

  • A New Home: For the last two decades, there has been very little innovation as it pertains to lithium-ion battery casings.  Group 14 bucked that trend and by using a hybrid material of carbon and silicon, the company has found a way to eliminate the use of graphite, allowing batteries to weigh less, but produce more energy
  • Can I get A Charge: It’s important to remember that while silicon allows for longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries, the real benefit is in unlocking the possibilities promised by that more powerful and energy-efficient battery.
  • Built to Last: Another advantage of using a silicon-based battery is its sustainability benefits. The ability to consistently reuse silicon-based batteries means that there is less need to constantly dig into natural resources to constantly produce new batteries.

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.


Article

Smartphones are incredible pieces of technology. They allow users the ability to track stars, text, purchase items at the ease of a click, map their next destination, and so much more. Their individual capabilities are truly remarkable.

That’s Rick Costantino, and while what he is saying may sound too good to be true, it’s not. On this episode of IT Visionaries, Rick dives into how Group 14 is reversing that trend by working to replace the traditional graphite anode with a silicon casing material. Plus, Rick touches on why silicon is the future of the battery industry, what type of devices use lithium-ion batteries, and how Group 14 is thriving despite some early start-up struggles.

According to Costantino, a battery contains two key components; an anode, which is the negative side of a battery, and a cathode, which contains the positive electrode of a battery. Over the past two decades, a lot of work has been done optimizing the cathode side, but not the anode.

“We’ve been using the same basic approach, which is a material called graphite,” Costantino said. “[Graphie] is a great material, but we were thinking about how we could improve that last frontier of the battery improvement on the anode side.” 

Apparently, the path down that final frontier was paved with carbon, another form of graphite that Costantino said the team zeroed in on as the best way forward. According to Costantino, Group 14 was already working with another form of carbon, which he referred to as hard carbon, which led them to think about other ways they could use the technology in combination with another useful element: silicon.

Carbon and silicon rest within the same column of the periodic table — which led Costantino and his team to the name Group 14 Technologies — and the key was figuring out how to make silicon work in the best way possible.

“Silicon is a tremendous material in terms of the amount of energy it can store,” he said. “It’s 10 times the amount of energy that graphite or any carbon could store. But, but the problem with silicon is when you put it in the battery and cycle it, you need to insert lithium inside and outside of the material because silicon expands. And that makes it really difficult for the material to rebound and expand every time and retain its integrity in the same capacity to absorb the same energy every time.”

Costantino said that Group 14 created a hybrid silicon and carbon material that has the high capacity of silicon, but the stability advantages of carbon material — it’s a magic recipe of sorts, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for technology. But there are other benefits as well, including environmental ones. As hundreds of millions of batteries are produced each year, the importance of reusing a lot of the material remains an important issue and one that is addressed with Group 14’s batteries.

“How do you extract and recycle those materials from the battery as much as possible so that you don’t have to go back to the earth to make the next battery?” Costantino said. “No one company can do it all. We’re all in this together. We want to source our materials and we want to ideally to be a completely enclosed system. Our vision is that large-scale, all the energy that our process needs, we’re going to actually generate it within our own process and recycle it as much as we can.”

So what does all this mean for the typical consumer? Costantino said that as more and more battery makers adopt Group 14 technology, users could see an uptick in efficiency in their everyday consumer products, but while the extra battery juice is nice, the real power is the things it’s unlocking.

“Another way to think about it is now your phone can do 50% more things,” Costantino said. “A consumer electronics customer [told me], ‘Your material has so much energy density that we can do more things with our consumer electronics devices that we hadn’t even imagined yet. If you think about today your phone, you’re carrying this remarkable device, it’s not just a phone,, it’s a computer, it’s a GPS, it’s a gyroscope. All of that is powered by the battery and all of that is really what limits the engineer’s imagination.”

To hear more about how Group 14 Technologies is utilizing carbon and silicon to create a lighter and more efficient battery, check out the full episode of IT Visionaries!

To hear the entire discussion, tune into IT Visionaries here

Episode 263