Battery Energy Storage Systems Technologies (B.E.S.S. Technologies) is a spin-out company from the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) at the University of Albany, focused on commercializing novel energy storage technologies. In this Insights from Industry interview, co-founder and CEO Dr Fernando Gomez-Baquero talks to Will Soutter about their technology and
processes, and about their partnership with the CNSE.
WS: Could you give us an overview of B.E.S.S. Technologies and
the field you are working in?
FGB: B.E.S.S. Technologies is a component design and engineering
venture. Our mission is to improve the battery systems of assemblers
and manufacturers of batteries, providing them with high-performing
component designs. Currently we are developing an anode solution for
assemblers and manufacturers of lithium ion batteries.
WS: What benefits does your technology offer over existing energy
FGB: Our product is a novel anode for lithium ion batteries that
offers the following benefits:
1. Higher energy density: our anode has a unique silicon/silicide
chemical composition and surface engineering that provides more than 3
times the energy capacity of graphite (i.e. above 1200mAh/g). We also
have a product development plan that aims to double that capacity.
2. Higher power delivery: our anode technology has a hyperbranched
nanostructure that can increase surface area by 2 orders of magnitude
when compared to traditional graphites or other nano-silicon anodes.
Increased surface area allows the material to deliver higher power
densities, in this case without losing the energy storage capacity.
3. Faster charging rates: current anodes are usually operated at low
charging rates to prevent damages to the material. Our nanostructure
and our unique chemical composition work together to withstand fast
charging rates. We have successfully tested our anode at charging rates
5-10 times faster (5C-10C) than what is usually recommended for anodes
4. Simple manufacturing with no extra materials: our anode is
manufactured using two well-known, highly scalable manufacturing
processes known as Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) and Chemical Vapor
Deposition (CVD). Our anode does not require the use of binder
materials or carbon mixes, can be fabricated in any format size, and
uses materials that are easily recyclable.
Figure 1. a single
hyperbranched silicon/silicide nanostructure fabricated using only PVD
WS: How does nanotechnology help you achieve these benefits?
FBG: Silicon-based anodes were proposed many years ago as a possible
solution to improve lithium ion batteries. But bulk silicon anodes have
such a short lifetime (only work for a few charge/recharge cycles) that
it made them impractical for rechargeable batteries.
Nanotechnology first “rescued” silicon when researchers discovered
that silicon nanostructures (below 150nm according to a recent study)
do not suffer from cracking and fracturing upon lithiation. But
creating nanostructures (e.g. nanoparticles, nanowires, nanopillars) is
not enough because there are electrochemical reactions that also reduce
the useful life of silicon anodes.
So, we have used nanoengineering to make a leap forward and create
an anode material that is surface-nanoengineered to mitigate the
problems that arise from unwanted electrochemical reactions, while at
the same time capturing the benefits of a small size.
And this is just the beginning. Nanotechnology is allowing us to
customize the performance characteristics of the anode and in the near
future it will help us add value in the form of better performance and
will help us incorporate new functionalities to battery systems.
WS: Many novel technologies based on nanomaterials look good on
the lab scale, but run into difficulties when scaling up – have you met
any issues with large scale production?
FBG: Our approach is to keep manufacturing simple, take advantage of
well-known processes, and overall offer a solution that will be
cost-effective. To do so we only use two manufacturing processes (CVD
and PVD) that have been around for several decades and are extensively
used in large-scale manufacturing in the semiconductor and photovoltaic
We are currently working with equipment manufacturers and have found
that our lab process is easily translatable to large-scale production.
We also want to offer our customers a manufacturing plan that will
reduce other costs.
Carbon-based anode manufacturing is sometimes a lengthy process done
in several steps that can at least include: material preparation,
mixing, coating, drying and calendaring. Our process is a simple 2 step
PVD-CVD that can have an anode ready for assembly in a very short
period of time.
Figure 2. to make a working
anode, millions of hyperbranched nanostructures are deposited on top of
a current collector.
WS: You have recently entered into a licensing agreement with the
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University of
Albany. How will the facilities and knowledge available to you help
with development of the technology?
FBG: There are several advantages to partnering with a $14 Billion
R&D nanotechnology endeavour that is the College of Nanoscale
Science and Engineering (CNSE). The most obvious one is access to
specialized tooling, equipment, and brain-power that allows us to do
accelerate our R&D efforts and reduce our time to market.
Additionally, we are part of the iClean incubator (housed at the
CNSE) that has provided us with technical incubation assistance,
introduction to private investment firms, legal and insurance contacts,
mentoring, and other start-up business support.
Every day we take advantage of this growing cluster of innovators
and of the resources that would otherwise be too expensive for a
start-up company to acquire.
WS: How do you see the world of energy storage changing over the
next few years, as nanotechnology-enhanced solutions like yours become
FBG: Consumers today recognize the immense importance of energy
storage. They often wonder (as I do) why their mobile phone cannot stay
charged for a whole day. They also recognize how important advances in
energy storage are if we want to build a future where renewable
energies and electric transportation are predominant in our economy.
Until now, a large part of the battery technologies that consumers
use are not great, just good enough. In the next few years several
innovations will compete to capture niche markets and will create a
competitive landscape where performance will be key.
Many nanotechnology-enhanced solutions will enter the market, but
only the ones that can demonstrate continuous performance improvements
will dominate. This performance focus will make the energy storage
market more similar to the semiconductor industry, and less similar to
the chemicals/materials-driven industry that it is now.
WS: How do B.E.S.S. Technologies’ plans for the future fit into
FBG: I often ask people: if you demand more powerful, faster, and
lighter laptops and mobile phones, why not demand the same from
batteries? Our mission is to be a preferred partner of battery
manufacturers, and help them answer to these customer demands by
improving the performance of their battery systems.
Currently we do so by applying nanoengineering to lithium-ion
battery components, and in the future we will use our knowledge and
expertise to improve other energy storage systems such as lithium-air
or flow batteries.
Even though we have extensive knowledge about materials, we are not
a materials company. We use materials and nanotechnology to add value
to energy storage components. That is what the future of energy storage
WS: Where can we find more information about B.E.S.S.
FBG: You can visit our website www.bess-tech.com and send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always
happy to engage in interesting discussions and provide more information
about our technology.