Sabic charges up energy storage with acquisition

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Photo by Sabic "Molecular Rebar" technology from BDS is believed to offer potential for enhancing the performance of energy storage applications, such as lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp. has taken a majority stake in a five-year-old nanotechnology company, Black Diamond Structures (BDS), that is focused on boosting energy storage for lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries.

Austin, Texas-based BDS developed a proprietary technology that modifies carbon nanotubes and has the potential to improve battery performance, according to a Jan. 16 news release from Sabic.

BDS formed in 2014 as a joint venture between Sabic Ventures US LLC and Molecular Rebar Design LLC. BDS's technology, which is trademarked as "Molecular Rebar," will allow Sabic to address challenges in the energy storage market such as charge rates, battery cycle life and energy density, Alan Leung, vice president of the chemical company's specialties business unit, said in the release.

Conventional carbon nanotubes tend to hold residual impurities or get entangled, which limits their ability to enhance electrical and mechanical material properties. However, BDS's technology appears to be a "game changer" because it delivers what Sabic describes as "clean and discreet" carbon nanotubes with a uniform aspect ratio that enables better performance for energy storage applications.

BDS has a manufacturing plant with battery testing capacities in Austin and currently is working with more than 160 battery manufacturers around the world.

Tests on the proprietary nanomaterial have shown it significantly improves the life cycle of lead-acid batteries and enhances lithium-ion batteries to meet increased power capacity demands, BDS says.

In addition, Molecular Rebar can be incorporated in existing production processes of batteries, which allows manufacturers to fast-track upgrades to their next generation of batteries without additional investments, according to BDS CEO John Hacskaylo.

Hacskaylo said in the news release that he expects Molecular Rebar to have an important role in the downgauging and downsizing of new battery designs, which will meet a growing global demand for lighter batteries in the hybrid and electric vehicles market.

At the same time, battery manufacturers should be able to increase output and achieve higher economies of scale, which reduces their production costs.

Leung said he also expects Molecular Rebar to create new opportunities for Sabic's Specialties business beyond the energy storage market by enhancing the properties of specialty resins and functional compounds.

Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sabic manufactures chemicals, commodity and high performance plastics, agri-nutrients and metals in more than 50 countries with 34,000 employees.

Sabic posted a profit of $4.9bn (€4.3bn) on sales of $39.9bn (€35bn) in 2017. Total assets at the end of 2017 stood at $86bn (€75.5bn).

The Saudi Arabian government owns 70% of Sabic shares and 30% is publicly traded on the Saudi stock exchange.

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