Professor Amy Prieto commercializes a safer, more customizable battery

Credit: Katie Hoffner/Prieto Battery

By Prachi Patel, special to C&EN

Amy Prieto decided to pursue battery research when she started as an assistant professor of chemistry at Colorado State University in 2005. The field was a perfect bridge between her Ph.D. studies in solid-state materials for electronic devices and her postdoctoral work in measuring transport properties of nanostructured materials. It turned out to be a fruitful decision. She has patented novel battery materials and a unique manufacturing process that together revamp decades-old lithium-ion technology. Her lithium-ion battery, built on a foundation of electroplated copper foam, is more flexible, safer, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly than batteries currently on the market.

In 2009, just four years after embarking on her research, she founded a company, Prieto Battery, to develop the technology for commercial use. The start-up caught the eyes of the power-tool manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker and the computer technology giant Intel, both of which invested in the technology in 2016. Prachi Patel talked with Prieto about her innovative technology and business plans.

Why give lithium-ion batteries a makeover?

Current batteries are limited by their materials and architectures. In your cell phone or laptop, you have a battery made of flat layers. If you want it to store a lot of energy, you have to make the layers thick, which means the battery doesn’t charge very quickly. And if you want to make it fast, you have to make those layers thin, but then you cannot store very much energy.

We wanted to make a device without these trade-offs so your phone battery could last a whole day and you’d be able to charge it in 10 minutes instead of an hour. That’s critical for larger-scale energy storage applications like electric vehicles or my ultimate dream: battery banks for wind and solar farms.

Read the full article and interview at c&en!