Firm seeks breakthroughs in rechargeable batteries

September 28, 2012 // By Dylan McGrath
Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a privately held San Diego company focused on battery materials development, said it signed a multi-year joint development agreement to develop materials to improve rechargeable battery technology with Japan's Ashai Kasei Corp., one of the world’s largest producers of advanced battery separators.

Wildcat, founded in 2006, has previously developed technology for a number of firms in more than 50 projects with leading chemical companies, cell makers and OEMs. The deal with Ashai Kasei is the company's first big multi-year collaboration that extends beyond a specific project, according to Wildcat CEO Mark Gresser.

Gresser declined to provide details about the agreement with Ashai Kasei, including the value of the deal.

Despite steady advancement over the years, rechargeable battery technology is widely seen as one of the bottlenecks to more widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Improvement in battery technology is considered a critical barrier to making EVs less expensive and more efficient.

Gresser said developing better battery materials are the key to creating battery packs that provide more capacity and energy density and can achieve cost equivalency with gasoline.

"If you can double or triple the energy density of some of the better performing battery chemistries out there, that translates into more miles per charge and you get a heck of a lot closer on the economics to a tank of gas," Gresser said.

Development of better battery materials also has the potential to improve rechargeable batteries for other applications, including mobile computing and communications, Gresser said.

Wildcat maintains it can accelerate improvements in battery technology with its capabilities to design, develop and commercialize transformational advanced battery materials. The company claims its 32-person team of scientists and engineers uses proprietary high-throughput tools to develop and optimize materials.

Gresser said Wildcat hopes the agreement with Ashai Kasei is only the first for the company to involve deeper collaboration over a longer period. The company is actively seeking these type of partnerships with a handful of other large global firms and hopes to eventually expand its core scope beyond battery materials, he said.

Wildcat was founded by a team that included Peter Shultz, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute; Robert Downs, executive director of engineering