The start-up Batene works on battery technology for the future.

The start-up Batene aims to take battery technology to the next level

In the old spinning mill quarter in Wendlingen, the young company works on a special fleece for new battery technology.

If our future is electric, then batteries will be indispensable building blocks. Even more than today, batteries will be indispensable, if we want to have electricity available at any time and everywhere. Battery technology is needed in all parts of life, from transportation to communication, from medicine to environmental and leisure activities to name but a few. With the transition to a net-zero emissions economy, the importance of batteries will only grow. 

Batene, a start-up located in Wendlingen in Baden-Württemberg, aims to take battery technology to the next level. “We do have enough energy on this planet,” says Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thanh, Co-Founder and CFO of Batene. “But we don’t have an efficient way to harvest and store the energy yet”, she says. That’s why Batene has made it its mission “to accelerate the transformation from a fossil fuel-based to a CO2-neutral economy and to contribute significantly to the availability of sustainable energy, when and where it is needed.”

Joachim Spatz, Co-Founder and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, and his team worked for eight years on a new technology before it was licensed to the start-up Batene to develop new and highly innovative batteries.

Thin metal fibers improves battery performance, storage capacity, charging time and more

At the heart of the new technology is Batene’s ability to make very thin metal fibers. Produced through a special spinning process, the fibers are bonded to form a metal fleece, which then is permeated with active material used for energy storage. Replacing the metal foil in a cell with batene fleece™ results in a much more stable cell design due to the 3D structure of the fleece. It allows a shift from multi-layer stacks of cells to a thick, fat battery cell that can store much more energy, is safer, has a longer life and uses less material, while also charging much faster. The latter is possible because of the much higher lithium-ion mobility in batene fleece™. “If you recharge your car battery, you don’t want to wait for hours,” says Prof. Dr. Martin Möller, Co-Founder and CEO. “You want to do it in a maximum of ten minutes.”

Because of the many layers of metals and active materials stacked in a sandwich-like structure, conventional batteries are resource-intensive and not especially efficient. Furthermore, and as can be witnessed by anyone who has experienced the battery of their mobile phone or camera heating up with prolonged use, still a significant part of the energy is wasted as it dissipates in the form of heat.

The fleece inside Batene’s battery cells allows for more active material to be inside the batteries and shortens the distance the electrical current has to travel. That way, less energy dissipates, and higher performance can be achieved with fewer resources. “This technology can work with any battery, present or future”, says Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thanh.

Future technology in historical quarters

The excitement for this new technology and the pioneering spirit is palpable at Batene. The company that was founded in 2022 has secured seed financing that will last the company and its 15 employees until the end of 2024. Just recently, Batene moved into their new headquarters, located in the historical spinning mill quarter in Wendlingen near Stuttgart.

“It’s truly inspiring to be in this historic environment and have the old and the new in such a beautiful symbiosis,” says Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thanh. Batene’s move to the old spinning mill is indeed a sign of the dynamic changes in Baden-Württemberg. New, innovative technologies are following in the footsteps of traditional industries that have once sustained the region.

“The fact that we are in a spinning mill, making new and highly innovative fibers and fleeces is especially fitting”, says Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thanh. To preserve the historical ambiance, the company builds new structures within the building with a clean room and a dry lab where test battery cells will be assembled. This way, the substance and character of the district remains the same while its functionality changes fundamentally. “One reason why we were immediately drawn to the location – beside the great atmosphere – is the fact that it has set its sights on becoming completely CO2-free and is well on its way to achieving that goal, thanks to the presence of existing hydro power from the nearby river Neckar.”

Baden-Württemberg provided support and an ideal environment

Founding the start-up in Baden-Württemberg was a choice that both Prof. Dr. Martin Möller who was Professor for Textile and Macromolecular Chemistry at the RWTH Aachen University and Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thanh who was Administrative Director and CFO at the DWI - Leibniz-Institute for Interactive Materials are enthusiastic about. “Here, we have all these people who support us and motivate us to go further than we thought we could go, and the people here really lead by value,” says Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thanh.

“We are in an environment where we have both our customers and suppliers close by”, adds Prof. Martin Möller. “And Baden-Württemberg’s state government was also extremely helpful in setting up the company.” Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thanh agrees: “With Baden-Württemberg International (BW_i), it was such a great experience,” she says. “They helped us hands-on from the beginning, they introduced us to this location and put together a team of competent people to support us to get started.”

For Batene, a lot of work lies ahead. The goal is to establish a pilot production line to show that the concept is really working also on larger scale. CE certification of microbatteries, a proof of scalability and a real-world application, possibly in medical sensors, are also future goals. “If we are successful, we will solve many problems with an environmentally friendly and safe technology,” says Prof. Martin Möller. The fact that the new 21st century technology will be further developed in a building from the 19th century makes it all the more interesting.

Tip for reseachers and graduates:  Baden-Württemberg supports people who want to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow: Read more about founding your own start-up in Baden-Württemberg.

Author: Siri Schubert