LiNa Energy: Making big moves in solid-state sodium batteries for static storage
LiNa Energy explain how, thanks to the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s (APC’s) Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP), their growth is anything but static in the world of static storage.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
For LiNa Energy, who run their innovative battery solutions at 250°C, the heat of the kitchen barely makes them break a sweat when it comes to delivering cutting-edge solutions in places where extreme temperatures are a formidable foe to traditional battery chemistries. For comparison, most lithium batteries are operated at around 250°C.
LiNa progressed their business as part of their inclusion on the fifth wave of the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s (APC) Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP), specialising in the development and commercialisation of low-cost, solid-state sodium batteries that are a safer, more sustainable alternative to lithium-ion (li-ion). They have developed their solid-state batteries to initially be used in static storage applications, specifically in the renewable energy storage market. Additionally, their batteries are both lithium and cobalt-free, which helps to further de-risk the supply chain. Their sodium-metal-chloride battery is built around proven technology based on 1980s sodium chemistry, with modern materials science and advancements in fuel cell ceramics.
Such is their success on TDAP that they have secured a Memorandum of Understanding with several high-profile businesses, in the UK and in India. In the UK, the Eden Project are looking to solidify their green credentials with LiNa’s patented energy storage systems at key sites across the UK. In particular, the Eden Project intends to use the technology at Eden Project North, a proposed new attraction in Morecambe, to store their local renewable energy, making it available as and when it is needed.
Part of the appeal for LiNa’s technology is that their battery cells are ideally suited to static-energy storage applications, in combination with solar in very hot climates. The sodium-based batteries are designed to work efficiently at the sweltering temperatures that can come with operating in hotter climates, at levels that li-ion based batteries cannot reliably contend with without detriment to performance.
Other advantages of the battery chemistry is that it helps reduce costs as well as increase efficiency:
Our batteries are ideally suited to hotter climates, where li-ion simply isn’t fit for purpose. Solar growth markets with the highest need for energy storage, not surprisingly, often experience higher temperatures. In sweltering climates, li-ion batteries only work if they are circulated with refrigerated liquid coolant, encased in shipping containers, and stored in warehouses with air conditioning units pumping at all hours. All at a cost, and with high rates of failure. At LiNa we set out to use this excess heat to our advantage. It’s why we run our batteries at 250°C. We place our battery units in a vacuum-seal casing and once each unit is up to temperature, the system effectively runs itself — consistently, and with minimal parasitic load. With a round-trip efficiency of 92% and above our unique approach offers significant cost and performance advantages versus incumbent technologies. For developing global markets such as India, our solid-state sodium batteries are an obvious choice.
The nature of their technology also means that they don’t have issues of thermal runaway to contend with, adding to the safety and reliability of their offering.
During their time on TDAP, LiNa developed a clear go-to-market strategy, after carrying out an extensive market segmentation and customer discovery process. They also developed their Intellectual Property (IP) strategy, thus ring-fencing their valuable IP. From a product development point of view, LiNa further improved the performance of their solid-state battery cells, and designed and constructed a modular system for use in their beachhead market, static-energy storage.
Companies that successfully join TDAP benefit from being connected and introduced to relevant potential partners or customers in industry. LiNa was no exception. Through TDAP they were introduced to several companies, including HORIBA MIRA, the highly respected automotive and battery testing facility, who helped them validate the safety of their cells, and thus provided credibility through their third-party validation, giving confidence to potential end-users and investors.
This, along with other skills and guidance gained through their participation on TDAP, allowed LiNa to complete their largest round of equity funding to date.
Participation in TDAP helped LiNa improve our strategy for commercialising our battery systems,” explained Gene Lewis, CEO, LiNa Energy. Experience gained in TDAP pitching events helped us communicate the unique advantages of our solid-state battery systems effectively (safety, cost, ease of operation, and recycling) and was an invaluable preparation for our subsequent fundraising efforts, contributing to our success.
Will Tope, CCO LiNa Energy, added:
I can thoroughly recommend TDAP to clean-tech SMEs who seek to take innovation to market. Module leaders were professional with experience relevant to our business; we acquired their expertise at a fraction of the normal cost. Our experience was that the time commitment was very proportionate for the substantial benefits of participation.
For LiNa, being the hottest new commodity certainly has its benefits.