Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte (SAFIRE) to come to market


The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has exclusively licensed Safire to produce its drop-in additive for Li-ion batteries that prevents explosions and fire from impact. Safire, formerly known as BTRY, plans to locate facilities in East Tennessee to commercialise the liquid-to-solid battery technology.

The start-up’s renaming refers to the technology the company just got from ORNL; the lab that belongs to the Department of Energy named the additive a ‘Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte’ or Safire for short.

The novel electrolyte formulation changes the electrolyte from liquid to solid upon impact, preventing the previously liquid electrolyte from catching fire by blocking contacts between electrodes. Similar technology in defence provides projectile and ballistic protection. Safire, however, sees the main markets in mobility.

“Safire will transform the car industry, particularly as we pivot towards electric vehicles,” said John Lee, co-founder and chief executive officer of the company.

Lee and Mike Grubbs, Safire’s other cofounder, are also partnering with government agencies and industry to develop the technology for eVTOL, aircraft, e-bikes and other Li-ion-powered equipment.

“The additive is easy to incorporate into existing battery-making processes and provides users with a safer alternative that is lighter and more effective than conventional battery protection, resulting in higher performance and lower total cost of ownership,” added Lee.

The inventor behind the technology the startup wants to commercialise works at the ORNL. Gabriel Veith considers the best part of working at the federal Lab the team environment. “This team has a rheologist, a ceramicist, an electrochemist, mechanics experts, materials testers — all those together make this technology work,” he said. The team has been working to develop and refine the battery technology since 2014.

Safire was initially funded through the ORNL Seed Money program, and the project continued under DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The commercialisation effort received support from the lab’s Technology Innovation Program and FedTech’s Startup Studio, a venture firm program dedicated to advancing deep tech.

Safire plans to start developing prototypes with strategic partners. Those interested may reach out to the company directly.


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