Solid state polymer readies for the big time

October 05, 2018 // By Nick Flaherty
Solid state polymer readies for the big time
A solid state polymer material that has been under test for a decade is now reaching the market,  opening up opportunities for capacitor makers. Nick Flaherty talks to the CEO and VP of production at EEStor about their plans.

The original technology being developed by EEStor in Cedar Park, Texas, dates back to the 1990s and has had a somewhat turbulent past. “The original scientists started working on solid state energy storage – they had been working on the Star Wars initiative where the systems were working but failing because of the battery storage,” said Ian Clifford, president and CEO of EEStor (above). “So they looked at materials that had performance characteristics that were not being seen in solutions that were used in batteries.”

That led to EEStor’s ceramic technology based on a Composition Modified Barium Titanate (CMBT) material that can make capacitors and supercapacitors that handle higher voltages in smaller packages.

In 2006 EEStor was ready to start the commercial aspects with pilot production and did a deal with a Canadian electric car startup. “I had started an electric car company at the time, ZENN Motors, so I was very interested in the promise of the technology. Following ZENN’s initial commitment to EEStor, [Venture Capital firm] Kleiner Perkins became involved and their investment required production capability with a real focus on commercialising the technology.  

“ZENN [Zero Emission, No Noise] sold around 1000 vehicles in the US, and it been proven that the reason we don’t all drive electric cars is because the batteries suck, so we had to make a choice between developing low speed electric vehicles or energy storage which we did in 2012 and collapsed the companies into each other to focus on the technology,” he said, creating today’s eestor.

“We’ve got to fix energy storage globally, its an imperative and it’s a good opportunity for us,” he said.

Clifford recognised early on that testing was essential for the credibility of the material, especially for a licensing business. One of the challenges is that the CMBT can be added to a range of other materials with differing performance.

“Early on we started working with Intertek on test who have a lot of experience with capacitor type devices and we are now completing our phase 9 testing with them, expanding it to include two other organisations that specialise in high voltage capacitors to make sure we have a credible, repeatable process for the data,” said Clifford.

“A battery is still out of our reach but in the meantime we have a product that stores more energy than other materials.,” said Bryan Kelly, vice president of production at eestor. “CMBT mixed with glass can maintain a higher dielectric constant at voltage than other dielectrics. The Phase 7 material showed the nature of the material, a lead free relaxer with low residual polarisation, which is unique and means you get more energy out in discharge.”

Next: Tackling the MLCC shortages

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