|CEO Philip Juline|
Founder Jay Whitacre
|Products||Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) battery|
The company claims to provide a low-cost way to store large amounts of energy (e.g. for an electricity grid) through thousands of battery cycles, and a non-toxic end product made from widely available material inputs and which operates safely and reliably across a wide range of temperatures and operating environments.
The company was founded in 2008 by Jay F. Whitacre, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and Ted Wiley. They set up research and development offices in Lawrenceville, where it produced pilot-stage batteries. Whitacre received a BA in physics from Oberlin College and a PhD in materials science from the University of Michigan. He held positions at California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, studying energy-related topics ranging from fundamental materials function to systems engineering. In 2007 he accepted a professorship at Carnegie Mellon.
In 2011, an individual battery stack was promoted to store 1.5 kWh, a shipping container-sized unit 180 kWh. The battery cannot overheat. The company expected its products to last many charge/discharge cycles, twice as long as a lead-acid battery. Costs were claimed to be about the same as with lead-acid.
In 2015, the company announced it would supply batteries for a Hawaii microgrid to serve as backup for a 176-kilowatt solar panel array that would store 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In April 2015 they announced they have been cradle-to-cradle design certified. It was also reported they were reducing headcount.
In June 2017, bidding starting with a stalking horse offer of $2.8 million from an Austrian battery firm, BlueSky Energy. Juline-Titans LLC, an affiliate of the China Titans Energy Technology Group, won the bidding with an offer of $9.16 million - a small fraction of the reported $190 million in venture capital and debt the company had raised from investors including Bill Gates, Gentry Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, Bright Capital, Advanced Technology Ventures, Trinity Capital Investment and CapX Partners, Yung’s Enterprise, and Nick and Joby Pritzker.
In August 2017, MIT Technology Review claimed the China Titans acquisition would mean that Aquion "will continue operating as an independent entity, with research and development probably remaining in Pittsburgh. But manufacturing may move elsewhere, potentially somewhere in China."
In September 2017 Juline-Titans closed the East Huntingdon Township facility and moved production to China.
The battery materials are non-toxic. As of early 2014, the cathode used manganese oxide and relies on intercalation reactions. The anode was a titanium phosphate (NaTi2(PO4)3). The electrolyte was <5M NaClO4. A synthetic cotton separator was reported. The electrode layers were unusually thick (>2 mm), which reduces power density. The device used Siemens power inverter technology.
The company set up manufacturing facilities at a former Sony television assembly plant in East Huntingdon, Pennsylvania initially proposing a capacity of 500 megawatt-hours per year in 2013 and 2014. In March 2014 they announced that commercial shipments of batteries would begin in mid-2014, and in May 2014 announced they had shipped 100 units.
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It’s nontoxic, low-cost, and modular, and it can’t overheat.
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- Wu, Wei; Shabhag, Sneha; Chang, Jiang; Rutt, Ann; Whitacre, Jay F. (2015). "Relating Electrolyte Concentration to Performance and Stability for NaTi2(PO4)3/Na0.44MnO2 Aqueous Sodium-Ion Batteries" (PDF). Journal of the Electrochemical Society. 162 (6): A803–A808. doi:10.1149/2.0121506jes.
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