With Australian Partner, Boulder Ionics Looks to Improve Batteries

Building better batteries is one of the biggest challenges in cleantech—if not all of tech. Experts believe more efficient and stable energy storage systems could make electric vehicles cheaper and safer, allow the military to power vital equipment, and create ways for utilities to store excess energy they generate.

Boulder Ionics, a startup based in Arvada, CO, is taking up the challenge, along with a partner in Australia, following a licensing agreement announced Wednesday.

Boulder Ionics makes technology it believes will help create a new generation of battery and energy storage technology—but not batteries themselves. It is a chemicals and materials company that makes electrolytes and ionic liquids for advanced battery systems, according to Tim Bradow, its vice president of business development.

“We’re an enabling technology,” Bradow said. “We make one of the key materials for next-generation energy storage devices for electric vehicles and grid storage.”

Creating batteries that use ionic liquids—which are salts in a liquid state below 100 degrees Celsius—as electrolytes could be a major breakthrough. Such batteries could be higher-voltage, store more energy, and also be safer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries, Bradow said.

“You greatly improve the safety of a lithium-ion battery because ionic liquids are inherently non-flammable and inherently safe, which is the complete opposite of what’s used today,” Bradow said.

In addition to electric vehicles, potential use cases include utilities storing energy produced by renewable sources in ionic liquid batteries, he said.

The company announced Wednesday it has signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science agency. Boulder Ionics will develop and commercialize a type of ionic liquid developed by the agency to make electrolytes for lithium-ion and other advanced chemistry batteries.

Boulder Ionics has raised about $8 million in outside funding, with $4.8 million coming from venture capitalists including Pangaea Ventures, 9th Street Investments, CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund, and JSR Corporation. The rest is from grants from sources including the National Science Foundation and the Air Force, Bradow said.

It’s still pre-revenue, but Bradow said the company could begin generating revenue in the second half of 2014.

The startup, which was founded in 2011, believes it is in the position to be the first company to create ionic liquids on an industrial scale, Bradow said.

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