"We are industrialising a new electrode with vertically aligned carbon nanotubes,” said Pascal Boulanger, founder, chairman and chief operating officer (COO) of Nawa. “What makes the difference is the structure – it’s like a toothbrush that provides advantages in other domains – it’s a fully accessible surface.”
The material was developed at the French research lab CEA. “I am a microelectronics engineer, I did my PhD at CEA and during my last position deputy head of a research team within CEA looking for materials for technology transfer,” said Boulanger.
“Energy storage was the most attractive market, and the first area we started to address was ultracapacitor as it’s easier to make than a lithium battery and our unique selling point will be better as I believe ultracapacitors are more virtuous than batteries as you can charge them millions of times. We also wanted to validate the electrode material for lithium and then look at other fields.”
The advantage of the nanocarbon material is the surface area of 600m2/kg. “If you have one cm of aluminium electrode you can have 5000x the surface area,” said Boulanger. Nawa has been commercialising the manufacturing process for both the material and for ultracapacitors, based at STMicroelectronics’ fab in Rousset in the south of France that was formerly owned by Atmel.
“What we have demonstrated is a 5x increase in energy density that provides almost the same as a lead acid battery, 25 to 30Wh/kg, where today an ultracapacitor UC is only 5Wh/kg,” he said. “It’s still lower than a lithium battery but we are not competing with them but we are bringing additional capabilities.”
But to do this requires cost effective volume manufacturing.