Turning CO2 into Graphite for 70% Lower Cost

June 07, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

Saratoga Energy, which has developed a patented process that electrochemically separates CO2 into oxygen and graphitic carbon, and could revolutionize battery production for electric vehicles, the grid and other applications, has won a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Department of Energy.

Saratoga Energy’s inexpensive electrochemical process synthesizes graphite from carbon dioxide. Graphite is an essential material in advanced lithium-ion batteries. Traditionally, it is either mined in China or synthesized from petroleum. But Saratoga Energy uses carbon dioxide to synthesize graphite less expensively.

“We expect our material to be about 70 percent cheaper than the graphite currently used in making lithium ion batteries, and that will help cut down on battery costs,” said Drew Reid, Saratoga Energy’s CEO. “In addition, our material will allow batteries to charge about three to five times faster,” Reid said.

The DOE grant is designed to help Berkeley, California-based Saratoga Energy develop a prototype. The company might also be eligible for a much bigger follow-up grant.

“We have $150,000 and nine months to demonstrate the material’s performance on a prototype scale,” Reid said. “If that goes well, we hope to win a second-round grant that can help us set up a pilot production facility.”

Affordable high-performance batteries are considered critical to the emerging clean energy economy, from incorporating renewable energy into the electric grid to furthering the deployment of electric vehicles.

“This is a highly competitive grant program, and it gives Saratoga Energy both capital and validation,” said Alex Luce, program manager of CalCharge, a public-private energy storage consortium that counts Saratoga Energy among its members. “Winning this grant suggests that the company might be onto something big.”