2023 – A Year in Solid State Batteries

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As 2023 is coming to an end, now is a good time to reflect on the exciting activities that took place at Ilika this year. If I had to pick the biggest two events of the year: for Stereax, our mm-scale solid state batteries for Medtech implants, it would be the new partnership with Cirtec Medical; for Goliath, our program of SSB pouch cells for EVs, it would be the achievement of energy density parity with lithium ion batteries. More on this later.

More than ever, ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) has been on our mind in 2023. Our dedicated team of Green Champions, working towards a more sustainable future, invited all staff to participate in a litter picking afternoon, following from earlier family bike rides and seed picking fun. Cycling was also on the agenda on World Bicycle Day in June; and in October, when NPI Director Robin took part in the Costa Foundation and McMillan Cancer Charity Bike Ride which raised £200,000. More sportive fun at the end of the year: our pledge to run/cycle/swim to the North Pole and back before Christmas is still going, and I can now announce that we have reached destination and are on our way back. Staff wellbeing was at the centre of several activities including: supporting World Mental Health Day; celebrating women and girls in science and embracing gender equity. In July, we hosted a week’s work experience placement, supporting our mission to help guide and mentor young people towards a career in STEM and sparking interest in a future career in the battery industry. Of course, we were all saddened to hear of the demise of John Goodenough this year; but I can only presume that he would have been proud of the noise created by this year’s World Battery Day, on 18thFebruary, the birthday of Italian physicist Alessandro Volta. The environment is strongly at the centre of the Green Champions focus, but also Ilika’s in general: in June, we proudly received a renewal of our Carbon Reduced Organisation award; and in November, an invitation by Decision Magazine to test drive high end EV’s reminded us all about Ilika’s goal to enable a further adoption of electric vehicles with our superior battery technology.

Ilika’s mission and its employees’ this year was to further take our Goliath and Stereax lines towards full product introduction and industrialisation. For Goliath, the year started with the award of grant-funded project HISTORY which will focuses on integrating high silicon content electrodes into Ilika’s Goliath SSB for electric vehicles, to enable automotive level performance. The grant is substantial, £2.8M to Ilika, and will eventually take our R&D effort to MVP prototypes. Ilika is partnering with Nexeon, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of battery materials; sustainable manufacturing company HSSMI; experts from 4 of the UK’s top Universities (St Andrews, University College London, Imperial College and Oxford University); and technology innovation catalyst CPI, to model, characterize and deliver an automotive industry-defined SSB by project end. BMW Group and WAE Technologies join the project’s steering committee.

Later in the year, project SiSTEM was also awarded to Ilika who will partner with: Mpac Group who will develop a 1.5MWh SSB assembly line capable of delivering Ilika’s A-sample SSB pouch cells to automotive OEMs and Tier 1s; and with the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) who will undertake physical trials to demonstrate Ilika’s SSB electrodes at GWh scale. As 2 projects started, two ended in 2023: BUS100evaluated the alignment of the equipment available at UKBIC for the production of LIB with that of SSB production; and STEP, a 9-month series of manufacturing equipment trials to further de-risk the industrialisation plan for its Goliath large format cells for electric vehicles.

The year ended with two important pieces of news regarding the Goliath project: first we announced that we had achieved our internal D4 development point, which is a design-freeze milestone in the Goliath roadmap upon which Ilika's first prototype for customer release is based. Second, we also reached our stated intermediate technology development target of lithium-ion energy density parity with 250 Wh/kg prototypes.

For Stereax, 2023 was a year of 2 halves. In the first half, we pushed the development of our miniature SSB and delivered first M50 prototypes to customers Blink Energy (provider of device-agnostic power and communications platforms for any ocular device) and M300 samples to CubeWorks (developer of millimeter-scale smart sensing solutions for IoT) and Lura Health (leading developer of wearable intraoral biosensors for salivary diagnostics). The second half of the year really started in August, with the signature with Cirtec of a ten-year manufacturing licence to produce the Stereax range of mm-scale batteries at Cirtec's facility in Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S. This partnership announcement started a technology transfer activity where part of the Stereax production equipment, initially residing at Ilika’s own Pilot facilities has physically been shipped to Lowell. In November, we announced that all equipment had now been shipped.

The spirit of collaboration is also present in the Stereax team: you might be interested in this Tech Note – TN03: we worked with US company Piezo Energy Technologies to demonstrate fast-charging of micro-batteries using directive ultrasound. We also collaborated with Resonant Link and Lura Health in this case studydescribing a groundbreaking wearable health sensor for salivary diagnostics, powered by miniature solid state batteries and recharged wirelessly. We also contributed articles to three medical and micro-electronic publications: Electronic Product Design &Test, Med-Tech Innovation and Components in Electronics.

Ilika colleagues were on the road a lot this year, learning from others and informing audiences about novel batteries for transportation and Medtech, by contributing to 23 conferences or trade shows in whole, including, to name but a few: Ilika booth at the UK Pavilion of the Battery Show USA in Detroit; talking miniaturised implanted medical devices at MD&M East and West, also sharing a booth with Cirtec at the latter; and more in Europe, e.g. Berlin (Future Battery Forum), Stuttgart (Battery Show Europe), Bologna (E Tech Europe), and Birmingham (Low Carbon Vehicle) in the UK!

If you missed us this year, keep an eye on our Events page next year or our LinkedIn and X pages. Hoping this blog kept you up-to-date with Ilika’s activities, we are wishing you a joyful end of year and cannot wait to talk to you again in the New Year.