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Sunday, November 28, 2021

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‘Real beacon’: Australian company developing zinc-bromide battery technology lists for $285m | Renewable energy

A developer of a new low-cost, fire-resistant battery technology that emerged from the University of Sydney is set to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The company, Gelion plc, will be the university’s first market listing anywhere when it is scheduled to begin trading on the exchange’s alternative investment market on November 30. It raised 16 million pounds ($30 million), giving the company a market capitalization of 154 million pounds ($285 million), and allowing Gelion to accelerate research and production of new storage products, particularly zinc bromide batteries.

While the kit was originally patented in 1889, a university team led by Professor Thomas Machmeyer created a zinc bromide gel that they claim is a safer, longer-lasting, and cheaper form of storage than mainstream lithium batteries.

“It will not ignite. It has a high-temperature operating window,” Maschmeyer said, detailing some of the advantages of Gelion. [up to 50C] And it’s really very safe, recyclable and has a really low environmental footprint.”

By contrast, he said, lithium batteries are more of a fire hazard and perform less well in heat, and require temperature control and other engineering work.

Lithium now dominates the battery market due to its relatively high energy density, making it suitable for mobile applications from smartphones to electric vehicles.

Other forms of storage, such as thermal power or compressed air, are also vying for a market share that Bloomberg New Energy Finance this month forecast will grow from 17 gigawatts in 2020 to 358 gigawatts by the end of the decade.

To date, Gelion has grossed nearly $1 million in sales as it has prepared illustration products using its Endure-branded battery. The company plans to use the money raised from the listing to expand its manufacturing site in Fairfield in western Sydney, and to start battery production in India.

“I can see that Australian manufacturing is actually very much upgraded to potential capacity of up to GWh per year,” Machmeyer said.

Gelion’s strategy is largely based on persuading lead-acid battery makers to modify their processes to use zinc bromide instead. Such a conversion to produce 1 GWh of annual production would cost about US$16 million (US$22 million), compared with US$76 million for rival EOS Energy to start a zinc bromide plant from scratch, or US$135 million for a similar-sized plant. Lithium said.

Machmeyer predicted that once zinc bromide batteries were produced even on a modest scale, their operating cost would be 25% lower than lithium because they did not need fire suppression or air conditioning systems.

“System costs go down, go down, and go down, so at a low level of manufacturing we are competitive,” he said, “we don’t need 10 gigawatt hours.” [of scale] to reduce manufacturing cost.

Machmeyer, who will step down as Gelion’s CEO but remains its chief technology advisor, said the company chose London over its Sydney listing in part because of the UK’s tax incentives.

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Australia is also a more risk-averse market as investors remain spooked by the polarizing debate over climate action unleashed during Tony Abbott’s election in 2013.

“The climate wars that the coalition has been in, you know, have damaged the entire investment climate and have led to investment uncertainty, and everyone hates uncertainty,” he said. “There wasn’t much difference at the end of the day, but it was enough for us to go to the UK.”

Li Daixin, China storage analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said the zinc bromide battery “in essence has a lower energy density and lower charge/discharge rate.” [than lithium batteries] Thus it has a much narrower application scenario.”

“The additional cost-cutting is also more difficult because of the lack of economies of scale,” Lee said. It mainly targets some persistent storage applications that require long lasting systems. So I don’t think it can be considered a competitor to lithium and instead could be a supplement in the storage market for some application scenarios.”

Other technologies in Gelion’s pipeline include the development of silicon and sulfur additives that can improve the performance of the lithium battery. This technology will be licensed to existing battery brands rather than the company trying to produce it.

“We’re just making lithium-ion and lithium sulfur batteries more energy-intensive and less prone to static thermal waste,” Machmeyer said. “So we don’t eat in the same markets [as zinc-bromide]. They are completely separate markets.”

The company expects to break even by early 2024. The listing will help increase the number of current employees in Australia from 30 to 45.

The University of Sydney’s 5% stake in Gilion will be reduced to 3% after the listing dilutes its stake.

Machmeyer said the university’s support showed “what is necessary for a startup to go on its path to listing and that they are putting their money where it is. They were just a real beacon.”

  • This story has been modified November 25, 2021. A previous headline stated that the company had been listed. It is due to be listed on November 30, 2021. He also stated that the company raised 154 million pounds ($285 million) when the correct figure was 16 million pounds, with the University of Sydney’s stake reduced from 5% to 3%.

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