You’re running late to meet your friends at the new restaurant in town, and you’re about to leave when you realize your cell phone is almost dead. You plug it in, and it fully charges in seconds. You dash out the door, hit all green lights, and arrive just 5 minutes behind schedule.
What an amazing world that would be.
Smartphones (and other electronics), meet Nanotech Energy.
If your phone has never charged that quickly, you’re not alone. Most batteries take much longer to reach capacity—but Nanotech Energy is changing that.
Jack Kavanaugh and UCLA scientists Dr. Richard Kaner and Dr. Maher El-Kady founded Nanotech Energy, Inc. in 2014 with a bold goal: to translate the world’s leading-edge research on graphene-based energy storage devices from the lab to the marketplace.
But what in the world is graphene?
Graphene is one layer of graphite. (You’re probably familiar with graphite—it’s the soft and flaky material in pencil lead.) Graphene has many desirable properties: it’s very flexible, strong, lightweight, thin, and has great conductivity. Because of these benefits, labs tested graphene for use as a battery component as an alternative to lithium, the main material used in today’s batteries. The result? It worked!
Now, labs are using graphene to make super-fast energy storage products, such as batteries.
And Nanotech is helping lead the way.
With their main lab based in Reno, Nevada, Nanotech wanted a separate location for their studies. With a booming student population and a reputation for entrepreneurship, Chico, California, was an obvious choice.
Fun facts about graphene:
- 200 times stronger than steel
- 1 million times thinner than human hair
- World’s first 2D material
- Stretches up to 20 times its length
- 6 times lighter than steel
In 2016, they opened a Research & Development Center in Chico. Now, they’re expanding to a Scale-Up Center, composed of two buildings that will house manufacturing product validation and eventually full manufacturing of lithium and graphene-based battery storage.
“No Mo’ ’Splosions”: A new frontier for batteries.
Unlike more volatile lithium batteries, the company’s new graphene battery is fireproof, which makes it much safer—this prevents explosions! It also charges laptops, power tools, medical devices, and yes, even smartphones, in just seconds. And, the battery lasts three times longer than a normal one, on just a single charge.
And while you’d think something like this would be incredibly expensive, Nanotech is making it cost-effective to mass produce. You’ll be able to purchase graphene batteries in the not-too-distant future (perhaps as early as 2023!), with initial releases in the consumer electronics market and then into electric vehicles.
In addition, an affordable non-flammable lithium-ion battery is also in the works. Nanotech is the only research and development company working on this right now—an amazing honor and opportunity for Chico to be home to this type of groundbreaking technology.
5 of Nanotech’s Goals
- Revolutionize personal electronic devices.
- Make renewable energy more viable.
- Increase the use of electric vehicles.
- Make a smarter and more effective electric grid.
- Design cutting-edge graphene solutions.
5 Reasons Nanotech (And Their Employees) Chooses Chico
- More free time. Moving to a smaller city gives Nanotech employees additional time to spend on hobbies or activities with friends and family because there’s less time spent sitting in traffic or driving across town.
- Plentiful business possibilities. Even with a slower pace of life, Chico has an engaged community and ample business networking opportunities.
- Help from the city. The City of Chico is helping facilitate permits, and The Governor’s Office and PG&E are giving Nanotech an electric discount rate.
- Relationship with CSU Chico. Nanotech hires many CSU Chico graduates.
- Butte College’s training packages. Butte College offers specific education programs for students that train them for positions at companies like Nanotech.
5 Ways Chico Benefits From Nanotech
- Employment opportunities. The Chico office currently has about 60 employees, which will jump to 100 staff members in the first year of opening the new Technology and Scale Up Center, and 160 in the second.
- Higher salaries. Because Nanotech needs employees with specific skills, they pay more than the average wage.
- Economic benefits. The total economic impact of their new building is $172 million per year, which will both, directly and indirectly, create more jobs and increase household income.
- Public safety. Their non-flammable batteries ensure a safer environment.
- Sustainability. Because the batteries charge faster and last longer, you’ll use fewer batteries—which is good for both your wallet and the planet.
What’s next for Nanotech
It’s safe to say Nanotech has plenty of exciting projects coming up, from fireproof lithium-ion batteries to the new Scale-Up Center. They’re even coming up with conductive inks and adhesives, too. Stay tuned for all they’ve got up their sleeves!