project ara1

A New Battery Design from MIT Could Make Project Ara a lot More Practical

February 3, 2015 - Written By Stephen Sard

Project Ara, the modular phone from Google, is set to change the world of mobile technology by providing users the ability to change out modules in their phone that will add or remove specific features. But this amazing idea has one slight issue; it has short battery life, which can derail any amazing phone. Enter SolidEnergy, a startup that hails from the halls of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and their new lithium-ion battery. This battery, according to the company, will make Project Ara more practical and hopefully solve the possible short battery life of the device.

SolidEnergy has taken the issues that have been facing lithium-ion batteries since they began circa 1991 with Sony, and changed the anode from a graphite anode to a lithium on copper anode.  The result of this newer, smaller anode is that it can hold twice the amount of energy than a conventional graphite battery of the same size. You could also half the size of the battery and still run for the same amount of time as a conventional battery of a much larger size. This is one of the reasons why this battery will help solve some of the issues with Project Ara’s battery life. It will allow for a smaller battery without compromising performance.

This new technology has a caveat though. The problem lies in the manufacturing of the battery. SolidEnergy has teamed up with the once bankrupt A123 Systems. A123 has restructured itself as a facility that assist battery startups with creating new battery innovations. This company will provide the conduit for SolidEnergy to produce enough batteries for phone manufacturers to test in their products. If SolidEnergy wants to mass produce these batteries; it will have a long road ahead as a long term manufacturer would have to retool their facility to produce the battery due to the batteries different materials. This would be very costly and a huge gamble for SolidEnergy. There is also an issue with ensuring quality and a consistent product given this batteries smaller anode; a problem that has faced other manufacturers of similar technology. But the payoff for SolidEnergy is huge, as in billions of dollars huge. According to the company, a few large name cell phone manufacturers have already approached them to try out their new battery, though they have not stated which ones.

If SolidEnergy can make this new battery technology work, it will have far-reaching impacts on the mobile device industry. It will allow companies to make thinner, longer lasting phones that will be able to get you through not just your work day, but your leisure time after work as well. It will have a positive impact on Project Ara, which could revolutionize the mobile space as we know it. If they can solve the manufacturing issues that face them, they will come out on top. Let’s just hope the ghost of manufacturers past doesn’t rear its ugly head.