Interview with Nanotech Energy

What is the core mission of Nanotech Energy and what are you looking to achieve in the future?

Nanotech Energy is bringing to reality graphene’s potential to revolutionize the way we power our world. Having developed and produced single-layer graphene, graphene oxide products as well as graphene batteries with unparalleled performance, Nanotech Energy’s mission is to bring graphene-based energy storage from the research laboratory to the marketplace.

With energy being such a hot topic of 2021, Nanotech Energy is looking to make renewable energy more viable. Can you explain how you are going to achieve this?

With their ability to store large amounts of charge per unit volume, lithium-ion batteries have changed the way we use energy from portable and consumer electronics to electric cars. However, lithium-ion batteries come with significant fire risk. When damaged or overheated, cells within these batteries can cause thermal runaway which can produce a fireball explosion.

With the combination of graphene and our Organolyte electrolyte, Nanotech Energy has made a battery that does not explode or produce flames when damaged. This superior safety alleviates the fear of an uncontrollable fire of a battery pack, whether in a handheld device, EV or mission critical applications. It also reduces cost and weight with simplified battery management systems and less protective housing.

Why did Nanotech Energy choose graphene over traditional materials?

Graphene is the thinnest, strongest and most flexible material known. It is 200 times stronger than steel, 97% transparent, a million times thinner than a human hair, extremely light in weight, flexible and stretchable. The vast range of industries graphene is poised to impact is substantial: transport, medicine, electronics, and energy are merely starting points as breakthroughs continue to develop.

Nanotech Energy was spun out of the Kaner Lab at UCLA. The work of Dr. Ric Kaner with graphene goes back to 2002. At that time he filed the first graphene patent to manufacture the material, making it the first graphene patent in history. Working with his PhD student, and future colleague, Nanotech Energy CTO Dr. Maher El-Kady, the lab developed many innovations in graphene and energy storage. Nanotech CEO Jack Kavanaugh, a three-time UCLA grad, was asked to look over their IP portfolio by UCLA and immediately saw the potential of graphene and energy storage. Kavanaugh, Kaner and El-Kady co-founded Nanotech Energy in 2014 to bring the potential of graphene to the energy storage market.

Nanotech Energy have produced 90% content graphene being the first and only producer to break the 50% barrier. Can you explain more about this?

In September 2020, Nanotech Energy announced the groundbreaking achievement of developing a process to produce 90% monolayer graphene, making it the first and only producer to break the 50% content barrier. In March 2021, Nanotech Energy reached 95% and is fast approaching 98%, as confirmed by AFM, TEM, SEM and XRD techniques.

The lack of monolayer products has so far limited the potential applications of graphene. A recent study published in the journal Advanced Materials (volume 30, number 44, 2018: 1803784) tested graphene products from 60 companies in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Most companies are producing less than 10% graphene content and no company is currently producing above 50% graphene content. They also concluded “the quality of the graphene produced in the world today is rather poor, not optimal for most applications, and most companies are producing graphite micro platelets. This is possibly the main reason for the slow development of graphene applications, which usually require a customized solution in terms of graphene properties.”

Countless markets benefit from graphene across multiple industries. Could tell us about some of the challenges you have overcome and the solutions you have developed?

The largest challenge has been to produce a single layer low oxygen rGO at scale. It is one thing to produce grams a day in the lab, but for energy storage production you need to be able to produce multiple kilograms per day. Scott Laine, Nanotech’s COO, has developed a modular system that can produce metric tonnes of single layer graphene a month and grow with demand.

In 2020 Nanotech Energy launched a non-flammable battery for Daimler Mercedes hybrid and electric automobiles. Could you explain how this battery exceeds traditional Lithium-Ion?

We have not developed any non-flammable batteries exclusively for any company. Nanotech energy has produced a non-flammable cell with graphene and our proprietary Organolyte electrolyte. Besides making existing battery applications safer, less expensive and lighter weight, this opens up the use of Nanotech Energy cells to a scale and locations that were previously too dangerous to place traditional high energy lithium-ion batteries.