Batteries, particularly the industrial-strength kind used as backup power systems in data centers, are expensive, heavy, and environmentally unfriendly. But nanotechnology may deliver cheaper, cleaner, and lighter alternatives.
In fact, Altair Nanotechnologies says its NanoSafe batteries, which rely on nano-sized lithium titanate spinel electrode material to provide energy, are such a breakthrough that IT shops aren't ready to accept them. "The battery's performance is so good that people are skeptical," says Altair CEO Alan Gotcher.
Altair's new batteries are designed to endure tens of thousands of full charge/discharge cycles, whereas more conventional lead-acid batteries won't last more than 700 cycles. The Altair batteries operate in extreme temperature conditions, ranging from 167 degrees to minus 58. And NanoSafe batteries recharge in minutes rather than hours.
Since the Altair batteries are denser than lead-acid batteries, it takes fewer of them to do the same amount of work. A NanoSafe battery system weighs just over 1,000 pounds and takes up to 10 cubic feet of space, less than half that of a typical 40-battery, 12-volt lead-acid system.
Altair is expected to deliver more than $10 million in battery technology to electric vehicle maker Phoenix Motorcars next year, according to investment bank WR Hambrecht. IT vendors have been slower to bite, but that may change. Annual maintenance of a typical 40-battery lead-acid system costs at least $650, and such a system usually won't last more than four years, Gotcher says. Altair's batteries don't require normal maintenance such as corrosion cleanup, he says, and can last up to 20 years.