Company success story: Silatronix
Products: Silatronix makes high-performance organosilicon electrolytes for energy storage. With its OS3 material, lithium ion batteries can be made that are higher-powered, lighter and safer than the batteries previously on the market. Compared to competing technologies, Silatronix has effectively doubled the life cycle of a battery under normal operating conditions. Batteries with the company’s technology also display superior performance, losing less of their charging capacity over time, compared to currently available technologies.
Leadership: Mark Zager, CEO; Robert Hamers, cofounder and chief science officer; Robert West, cofounder and president
Market: The worldwide battery market has experienced rapid growth in the last three decades. Just from 2010 to 2015, the world’s total battery capacity more than doubled. Battery technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since the days when large, heavy and relatively low-powered lead acid batteries (such as the traditional car battery) were the norm. The lithium ion batteries that abound today are small, lightweight and high-powered, but because of their energy density they present a risk of fire or explosion when they malfunction or are punctured.
Business success: Silatronix was founded in 2007 by Hamers and West, using technology they developed based on their chemistry research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), where both were professors. After nearly a decade of research and development, the company is ready to commercialize its technology. The defense, automotive and consumer electronics sectors are expected to be early adopters of these next-generation batteries, which the company believes have the potential to revolutionize the energy storage industry as they become widely adopted.
Wisconsin business environment benefits: The company has received $8.5 million in federal grant funding, including grants from the Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command and the National Science Foundation, as well as a grant from the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund and a Technology Development Loan from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). It has also raised $17 million in venture capital investment, partly with the help of certification by WEDC as a Qualified New Business Venture.
Silatronix has benefited from being located in Madison due to the presence of UW-Madison: the company works in conjunction with the research group of Professor of Chemistry Robert Hamers, and a large number of the company’s staff are graduates of the university. Silatronix has also benefited from the rich network that connects startups with one another and with potential funding options; it has received funding from local investors the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Venture Investors and the Pyle Group. In addition, the company has benefited from southern Wisconsin’s status as a center of expertise in areas important to the development of high-tech batteries, such as electro-chemistry and organosilicon technology, with the presence of Rayovac and Johnson Controls as well as multiple smaller companies.