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ARPA-E Awardee PARC Aims to Change the Way We Think About Batteries

May 23, 2013 - 1:29pm

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Dr. Eric Shrader, the principal investigator of PARC’s battery co-extrusion project, talks about battery innovation and the company's project with ARPA-E. | Photo courtesy of PARC.

Dr. Eric Shrader, the principal investigator of PARC’s battery co-extrusion project, talks about battery innovation and the company's project with ARPA-E. | Photo courtesy of PARC.

Editor’s Note: Below is an edited portion of the Q&A with PARC’s Dr. Eric Shrader on the company’s battery co-extrusion project. For more of Dr. Shrader’s thoughts on reforming the electric vehicle (EV) industry and changing the way we think about batteries, check out the full transcript on ARPA-E’s website.

Question: Tell us a little about your background and how you arrived at PARC.
Dr. Eric Shrader: I spent most of my career working in printing research. I started work at SRI International, did a lot of work in inkjet printing, founded a startup company during the dot-com boom and then came to PARC at about the time it was spinning out of Xerox. At that point, PARC was ready to look at other applications for its printing technology.

Q: How will your project, which received funding from ARPA-E, reduce manufacturing costs and improve battery performance for lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries?
ES: First, it’s important to step back and think a little bit about how batteries are optimized now. There’s always a tradeoff in battery design between energy performance and power performance. We’re developing a design that gives you another way to adjust those two parameters.

Traditionally, Li-ion manufacturers make each layer of the battery separately and then integrate the layers together. PARC is working to manufacture a Li-ion battery by printing each layer simultaneously into an integrated battery, streamlining the manufacturing process.

Q: How could this printing process transform the industry? Do you foresee it being used in other energy applications?
ES: This technology is transformative because it leverages all of the improvements that have been made in battery manufacturing thus far. Most of the research in batteries today centers on chemistry and materials. This project operates on top of all those advancements. It doesn’t just apply to a particular lithium chemistry that you might use in automobiles. As far as other applications, we’ve already used the technology in solar, and we’ve thought about using it for fuel cells as well.

Q: What are the biggest challenges of this project, and how are you trying to overcome them?
ES: One of the biggest challenges is in scaling, so we think a lot about how we get from what we’re able to do on the lab scale to making it viable at the commercial scale. We’re also aiming at cost reduction: by printing all three battery layers at once, we lower the energy yield loss and the amount of material wasted.

For more on PARC’s battery co-extrusion project, check out the full Q&A with Dr. Eric Shrader.

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