Trend: Lighter, longer-lasting batteries are essential to reducing dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source.
Firefly Energy is recognized by Frost & Sullivan for its new battery technology.
Frost & Sullivan selected Firefly Energy, Inc. as the recipient of its 2006 Technology Innovation Award in the field of advanced lead acid battery technologies for developing an innovative graphite foam lead acid battery that could cause disruptive changes in the market.
The lead acid cell, a technology born in the 1850s, is reliable, safe and inexpensive. It can also handle large surges in current, which makes it attractive to the world's automobile manufacturers. On the flip side, the lead acid cell realizes very little of its theoretical power density and has a relatively short battery life.
The approach used by Firefly Energy, a spin-out of Caterpillar, is radical but simple. The company's new battery removes past obstacles such as heavy weight, extensive corrosion and sulfating positive and negative lead metal grids by substituting them with carbon-graphite foam, increasing the surface area, to enhance the chemistry taking place. The result is a battery that can rival the advanced chemistries in performance, take advantage of an existing manufacturing base and address environmental concerns through the removal of one-half to two-thirds of the lead content.
By "taking the lead out" and replacing the plates with carbon foam, it is possible to obtain longer battery life while enhancing the battery's desirable characteristics, particularly in terms of fast discharge and recharge conditions. Additionally, by replacing most of the lead with a much lighter material, Firefly has drastically lowered the specific weight of the battery, which can help by either increasing output from the same weight or in creating a smaller package but with normal power output.
Firefly's battery runs cooler than normal lead acid cells, giving it longer life and a significant stealth advantage in military applications, particularly in desert environments. On the commercial side too, there is significant potential. With a large number of automobiles and trucks in America running on short-lived batteries, manufacturers that can deliver a cost-effective yet better battery technology stand to gain the most.
"Apart from these, there are markets for hybrid and electric vehicles that also require high performance batteries," notes Sabesan. "And while Firefly is initially looking to focus on select commercial and military markets, it is reasonable to expect that this novel technology will find equally viable markets elsewhere if the company should choose to enter them, given that the overall size of the worldwide lead acid market is over $16 billion per year in sales."