Newsletter: We are living in a battery materials world

Forgive the pun.

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Spring is in the air, but more than blossoms and birdsongs, I’m surrounded by the buzz of battery materials innovation.

It used to be just a small cohort that could define an anode and a cathode, and even fewer who could name their most promising avenues for technological improvement. Suddenly, not only is the market awash in companies pursuing just that, but some of them are billion-dollar enterprises.

Today I wrote about a new entrant in that field called Sionic Energy, which is racing to commercialize a silicon anode paired with a bespoke electrolyte. If adopted by battery manufacturers, the technology could significantly increase the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries while reducing cost. 

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That kind of breakthrough would have tremendous implications for the automotive sector and the power grid, which is why so many other companies are chasing that prize via silicon anodes or solid-state batteries (and making largely unverifiable claims about their merits). Perhaps buzziest among them is QuantumScape, which Eric Wesoff profiled for Canary yesterday.

Battery hardware companies must not only get their lab science right — a laborious, years-long or even decades-long endeavor — but also find a way to integrate their products into the massively built-out supply chain for battery manufacturing. Getting the science right is not nearly good enough. 

That caliber of difficulty used to chase many investors away. But the season has changed, and now the smart money” seems increasingly allured. The battery sector is another instance of the clean energy David” becoming a mainstream Goliath.” But which particular startups will triumph is very much up in the air. Stay tuned.

Speaking of spring in the air, the global economy is starting to emerge from quarantined hibernation, and carbon emissions are following suit. Jeff St. John unpacks how last year’s historic drop in carbon emissions could prove fleeting and what can be done to avoid a total rebound.

Today’s articles

IEA: Post-Covid carbon emissions on the rise

A reminder that carbon emissions must be decoupled from economic growth to yield persistent climate improvements. Read more →

Startup Sionic Energy promises next-gen battery benefits without the wait

Sionic says its silicon anode and customized electrolytes can slip into existing manufacturing lines with ease. Read more →

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Photo: BASF - We create chemistry

Julian Spector is senior reporter at Canary Media.