Northwestern tech spinoff NanoGraf to start Chicago manufacturing unit

NanoGraf has gained a $10 million agreement from the U.S. Department of Defense to supply components above the upcoming 18 months to corporations that make batteries and other machines, these kinds of as radios and night time-vision goggles.

“Soldiers have 100 kilos of equipment 25 lbs . are just batteries,” suggests Chip Breitenkamp, NanoGraf’s president. 

NanoGraf has leased a 17,000-square-foot facility west of Fulton Current market at 400 N. Noble St., which will property its workplaces and creation operations. The business will double its employees to about 35 folks.

It’s a main milestone for NanoGraf, which launched as SiNode Systems in 2012, centered on get the job done by Northwestern College professor Harold Kung. It was co-launched by Samir Mayekar, who left in 2019 to grow to be Chicago’s deputy mayor and now is chairman of the board.

NanoGraf came up with a distinctive tactic to building anodes, the portion of a battery that holds a demand. Most anodes are manufactured of graphite. NanoGraf included silicon, which enhances the battery’s capability to maintain a charge by about 20%.

The company provides the anode product, and a deal production lover assembles the ultimate batteries. NanoGraf has been making goods in little quantities in Japan considering the fact that 2018. Now it’s transferring creation again to the U.S.

The firm ideas to triple generation to about 35 tons of anode material following year, or sufficient to make about 20 million normal rechargeable battery cells that are about the sizing of a AA battery. It expects to improve output to 50 tons in 2024.

NanoGraf’s transfer is essential for two factors: It’s element of the reshoring pattern, or moving output of crucial technological products again to the U.S. It’s also an instance of how Chicago can carve out a area in the substantial technological innovation shift that is reworking the vehicle market. Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, which worked early on with NanoGraf, is household to a major federal govt battery investigation method.

“For any person who cares about the science and tech ecosystem, we’ve often talked about latent likely of our study labs and universities to make tricky-science companies. In this article is one particular illustration,” claims Brad Henderson, CEO of P33, a civic team that encourages the city’s tech overall economy. “It’s difficult, but they’ve obtained a shot. It’s a very long shot, but it’s just one of our very best shots.”

NanoGraf statements the lithium-ion batteries made making use of its components have the greatest power density reached so considerably. It also overcame a number of crucial complex challenge associated to employing silicon. 

“The purpose the Section of Defense wishes these cells is they can’t buy them anyplace else,” claims Jeff Chamberlain, CEO of Volta Power Systems, a Warrenville-primarily based undertaking fund that recently invested in NanoGraf. “As a enterprise trader, that is audio to your ears. It’s tough to build a new product. It is even more durable if you want to manufacture it.”

Extended term, NanoGraf desires to pursue the speedy-increasing marketplaces for buyer electronics and electrical autos. Breitenkamp says 13 consumers have examined its battery cells, about 50 % make gadgets for the armed forces, together with client electronics firms and some in the electrical-car or truck room. Startups from coast to coastline are chasing the option, promising their very own innovation. 

“Most people wishes we had an choice to the standard lithium-ion battery,” claimed George Crabtree, who sales opportunities the Joint Heart for Vitality Storage Investigation at Argonne. “Is it plenty of to be better than the current lithium ion, to displace it? Which is a tough question . . . for the reason that it is received to be a great deal much better.”