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Revolutionizing battery technology: unveiling the future of energy storage

August 3, 2023
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Dr. Carol Hirschmugl

Dr. Carol Hirschmugl moved to Milwaukee in 1997 where she later made the discovery of new, carbon-based material for lithium-ion batteries and co-founded COnovate.

Discovery of a new carbon-based material could reshape battery technology

Column by Dr. Carol Hirschmugl

For over a century, the battery has been a key source in powering our world. Since its initial introduction, the battery industry has undergone rapid transformations to enhance efficiency, reliability, and safety.  The far eastern countries, primarily China and South Korea, have dominated the industry, but in recent years Western Europe and the United States passed legislation to incentivize battery manufacturing and material development.

My introduction to the battery industry began after years of working in physics and traveling the world. Eventually, I found myself back in the Midwest and joined the physics department at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM), where I made the discovery of a new carbon-based material for use in electrodes in lithium-ion batteries. The breakthrough was in collaboration with my colleagues and patented through the UWM Research Foundation.

The discovery of this revolutionary material has the potential to reshape the future of battery technology and led me to my current position as co-founder of startup COnovate, Inc. Our patented eCOphite™ material is the world’s only form of solid carbon monoxide (CO), and has intriguing attributes that enable LIB performance that surpasses graphite, the current material of choice for electrodes. It offers cost-competitive scalability and the opportunity for seamless adoption to existing battery manufacturers. Additionally, it can deliver faster charge times, greater storage capacity, and improved safety.

Not only does our material deliver numerous benefits to battery performance, it establishes a simplified supply chain by using locally sourced biomaterials to make the material. Concerns regarding mining and processing materials like graphite, which heavily rely on high-risk geographies such as China, are addressed with this sustainable, cost-effective approach. By using our eCOphite material, battery manufacturers can benefit from a domestically sourced, higher performing active anode material for future battery production.

Positioned to make a revolutionary impact on the global battery industry, COnovate found a supportive ecosystem for growth in Wisconsin. The state’s highly respected university systems, with their scientific and technical programs, provide a diverse pool of employee candidates, while robust manufacturing capabilities make it an ideal location for successful startups like ours. Wisconsin already has a strong industry tied to energy-related businesses like Rockwell Automation, Briggs & Stratton, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee Tool and Generac Power Systems, creating fertile ground for energy-related discoveries.

Looking forward, we still have a long journey ahead, but we’re well on our way to making Conovate’s eCOphite material available to consumer battery manufacturers worldwide, including the automotive industry, power tools, electric bikes, and drones by 2024.

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