Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. is a company specializing in the development and manufacturing of energy storage systems for efficient power and energy management. Altair Nantechnologies designs advanced lithium-ion energy systems and batteries.
Altairnano's best-known product are their lithium-ion batteries, produced by Altair's Power and Energy division. The batteries have an anode made of a lithium titanate oxide formed into a spinel structure. The titanate replaces the graphite anodes of typical lithium ion batteries. The batteries are not the only batteries to use nanomaterials, but other batteries, like those from A123 Systems generally replace the cathode rather than the anode.
The primary advantage of their batteries is that they can be charged very quickly. In testing, a 35 kW·h battery pack was charged in ten minutes. Other advantages include longer life with up to 25,000 deep cycles, higher power density than other nanostructured cells, wider operating temperatures, and greater stability under electrical and mechanical stress (i.e. the cells cannot catch fire). On the other hand, a disadvantage is that they have lower specific energy than other lithium ion cells, 100 versus 120 Wh/kg. They have also been more expensive to produce, at US$2 per Wh, due to low manufacturing volumes.
The chemistry imposes, on the battery industry, a new methodology for evaluating batteries. Traditionally batteries have been evaluated on a nominal dollars/Wh basis. The battery's increased life expectancy and depth of discharge (usable energy) add more scope to the formula changing it from a nominal valuation to a practical, or useful, evaluation. For example, a typical lithium ion battery might have about 160 Wh/kg where Altair's is about half of that, at 80 Wh/kg. However, to optimize the life of a typical lithium ion system it can only be run between about a 30% state of charge and an 80% state of charge, leaving about 80 Wh/kg of useful energy. Altair's system can be run optimally between 10% and 90% state of charge, leaving around 64 Wh/kg or only 20% less than a typical lithium ion. Taking into account Altairnano's increased life expectancy, operational temperature range, and power density the battery relates well to other energy storage technologies.
Today Altairnano has three cell chemistries; An 11Ah energy cell, a 50Ah energy cell, and a new 3.5Ah power cell. The new 3.5Ah power cell has specific energy of 40wh/kg, specific power of 4 kW/kg, and a maximum charge rate of 50C. In transportation it can be used for light and heavy hybrid electric vehicles and large diesel starters, in electric grid ancillary services it can be used as a super capacitor alternative, and in the military it can be used for weapons pulse power, as an aircraft starter, and for communications.
Altairnano will have a second generation 11Ah cell that will be available around the fall of 2009. The performance of this second generation cell will be different due to a new cathode. The nature of the new cathode is proprietary at this time. The performance will differ in that the specific power will decrease from 2200w/kg to 1000w/kg which is still more than twice the minimum PHEV requirement of 400w/kg. A presumed benefit to this chemistry will be that the observed cell voltage (OCV) vs the state of charge (SOC) will be a smooth curve. This simplifies challenges for battery control systems on electric vehicles and makes them easier to control. .
AltairNano shares its battery technology with battery electric vehicle manufacturers. Phoenix Motorcars of Ontario, California is planning to use Altair's batteries in its sport-utility vehicles, currently slated to ship in 2010. The Lightning Car Company in the UK has a license for using their cells in its upcoming sports cars. Proterra, a battery dominant hybrid, and battery-electric, drive solutions designer, developer and manufacturer, is using Altairnano batteries in its all-electric EcoRide BE35 vehicle, a lightweight 35-foot bus.
In July 2007, AltairNano entered into a joint development and purchase agreement for a suite of energy storage products with AES Corporation, an electrical power distribution company. These are for three distinct market applications:
As a first step Altairnano has produced for AES an independently tested, one megawatt, grid-scale, battery energy storage system currently in use in the PJM Interconnection Regional Transmission Organization control area in Norristown, PA. The agreement with AES is not exclusive leaving Altair free to negotiate with any other utility, Independent System Operator (ISO), merchant operator, municipality or rural electric cooperative.
Altair Nanotechnologies also has relationships with the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and the Ministry of Defense (United Kingdom) (MoD). The DOD relationships include providing a battery backup system to replace the otherwise continuously running diesel turbine generators on United States Navy vessels, such as the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, and United States Army batteries for the M119 howitzer. The U.K. MoD relationship is via BAE Systems Marine Limited for which Altair is producing a battery system for submarine power and propulsion.
Altairnano has joined a number of other companies in a consortium called the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries (NAATB). The objective of this alliance is to build a single production facility where member companies would be able to purchase line time to build their own battery cells while keeping safe their proprietary information. Altairnano is also a member of the Defense Advanced Battery Manufacturing Coalition (DABMC).
Notwithstanding this partnership activity, as of March 2009, Altairnano has shipped little more than prototypes and relatively small numbers of battery packs. This company has, in various incarnations, a 36-year history of varied partnerships without ever making a profit. Altairnano has a dependency on the success of third parties products.
Altainano has created the RenaZorb product line intended for people afflicted with Chronic Kidney Disease, hyperphosphatemia and a range of other kidney disorders. Altair has given Spectrum Pharmaceuticals exclusive worldwide rights to this product which is currently still in the testing phase. Altair also has a similar product, Renalin, for companion animals which combats kidney disease, the number one killer of cats and dogs.
Dennis “Kilowatt” Berube set the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Super Pro class world speed record for electric dragsters driving a vehicle powered by Altair's battery packs. Berube's electric dragster, named the Current Eliminator V, accelerated to a speed of 247.2 km/h (153.6 mph) at the Speedworld Motorplex drag strip on December 15, 2007 covering a quarter-mile in 8.10 seconds.
The Autovolantor, a proposed model of flying car (aircraft) by Moller Skycar, has an all-electric version powered by Altairnano batteries.
In February 2008, Argonne National Laboratory reported that Advanced Battery Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: ABAT) has developed, and shipped its first batch of nano-lithium-ion batteries, to a U.S. customer, which incorporated Altair Nanotechnologies' lithium titanate spinel nanomaterials with its own polymer battery chemistry.
In March 2009, Altair along with ten other companies was dropped from NASDAQ's Clean Edge Green Energy Index (CELS). To be on the index, companies must meet eligibility criteria including minimum requirements for market value, average daily share volume and price.