Fierce 15 2016: SolidEnergy Systems developing better, safer batteries

Fierce15 2016

Editor's note: Welcome to the 2016 Fierce 15, an annual list that recognizes 15 of the most interesting startups in the wireless industry. We'll publish one profile a day for 15 days; SolidEnergy Systems is the tenth company to be recognized this year.

Company: SolidEnergy Systems
Where it's based: Woburn, Massachusetts
When it was founded: 2012

Why it's Fierce: Samsung is currently in the midst of a historically bad round of press. But that tends to happen when you have to recall millions of smartphones because the internal batteries might explode. It’s a similar fate that’s been met by many other companies that rely on lithium-ion batteries, and one that SolidEnergy Systems is working on preventing.

“A battery is really a bomb,” co-founder and CEO Qichao Hu, quite bluntly, told the Boston Globe.

SolidEnergy says it’s found a way to make batteries without using the flammable and sometimes volatile materials found in traditional lithium-ion batteries. While it’s at it, the company says it can also shrink the size and boost the energy density, making a 2.0 Ah battery that’s roughly half the size of the 1.8 Ah battery found in an iPhone.

Considering longer battery life is the most sought-after feature in mobile devices, and the ability to not explode is a big bonus, SolidEnergy was able to secure $12 million in series B funding. Now the MIT spinoff that counts veterans of Apple and Samsung among its team members is planning on launching commercially in 2017.

That relatively quick turnaround is likely because, as Qichao Hu told the BBC, SolidEnergy is a battery components company, not a manufacturer, and its battery parts are designed to fit into current lithium-ion battery manufacturing infrastructure.

What's next: SolidEnergy anticipates its batteries will be in smartphones and wearables as early as 2017, and then inside electric cars by 2018. But first, starting this November, the company will be placing its battery technology in drones, where battery life is a mission critical feature and can help initiatives like Google’s Project Loon and Facebook’s internet-beaming drones. “Several customers are using drones and balloons to provide free Internet to the developing world, and to survey for disaster relief,” Hu said in a statement. “It’s a very exciting and noble application.”

Read more: FierceWireless's Fierce 15 2016