An innovative battery company that was spun out from the University of Michigan has attracted a $15 million investment from Dyson, the UK-based technology company known for its vacuum cleaners, fans and hand dryers. The battery firm, Sakti3, which first launched in 2007, is working to develop solid-state battery technology with high energy densities that can enable devices to run longer on a single charge.
The investment also represents Dyson's first partnership with another technology company, and is aimed at helping Dyson branch out into other types of products. According to an announcement released Sunday, Dyson hopes to roll out 100 new devices in four new categories over the next four years.
Based in Michigan, Sakti3 has invested years in modeling, researching and testing ways to optimize battery technologies. Its efforts have led it to focus on solid-state batteries that don't require the liquid electrolytes used in conventional lithium-ion batteries.
A 'First' for Dyson
The new technology partnership with Sakti3 is "a first," a Dyson spokeswoman told us.
"It's very new for us," she said. "It's very exciting."
Beyond the promise of its battery technology, Sakti3 appealed to Dyson because of its heavy focus on research, the spokeswoman said.
"They have cutting-edge research (aimed at) continuous improvement...the same way as this company," she said. "It's something that really stands out about this company."
The partnership, however, won't involve any joint research facilities between the two companies, the spokeswoman told us. Rather, she said, engineers at Dyson and Sakti3 will stay in contact to communicate research findings.
Dyson last year announced it was investing $2.3 billion into future technologies, and its new partnership with Sakti3 is part of that program.
Aiming for 'Transformative Products'
In addition to the investment from Dyson, Sakti3 has also attracted more than $50 million from Khosla Ventures, Beringea, Itochu and General Motors. Sakti3's battery technology shows promise for a variety of applications because of the high energy density it has demonstrated.
Sakti3 last year also became an energy storage research affiliate with the U.S. Department of Energy and was named an "energy innovation pioneer" by the IHS CERAWeek annual international energy industry gathering.
Tests have shown Sakti3's prototype solid-state battery cells have achieved an energy density of more than 1100 watt-hours per liter. That is twice as much as the energy density of the most advanced liquid lithium-ion batteries available today.
Such improvements can enable the development of new, more efficient technologies and products, according to Ann Marie Sastry, founder and CEO of Sakti3.
"(Dyson) wanted what we did -- much, much better batteries," Sastry said. "The truth is, there is a great deal of knowledge and passion on both sides, and Dyson's engineering team has the capability and the track record to scale up new ideas and make them a commercial reality. Together we will enable some very transformative products."