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Innovation

California company touts customizable battery approach

Given that there is a lot of venture capital being poured into next-generation battery and energy storage products, I figure it is my duty to pay more attention to technology plays in this sector. Fortunately, I’ve done several interviews in recent weeks that are applicable.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Given that there is a lot of venture capital being poured into next-generation battery and energy storage products, I figure it is my duty to pay more attention to technology plays in this sector. Fortunately, I’ve done several interviews in recent weeks that are applicable.

First up is this item about Contour Energy Systems, an Asuza, Calif., company that is working on fluorine-based battery technologies. Contour, which used to be called CFX Battery, is a spinoff of Caltech and CNRS (the French National Center for Scientific Research). The company has close to $25 million in venture funding.

What makes Contour’s approach unique is the fact that its battery chemistry is highly customizable—the company is working on no less than 60 different applications, which work in all sorts of density configurations and temperature ranges.

Eric Lind, vice president of business development for Contour, says among the first focuses for Contour’s work will be sensors (link active RFID tags). Indeed, the company has signed a deal with NASA under which it will develop primary batteries for manned space missions. The first generation of its batteries will not be rechargeable; that’s a future focus that will appropriate for applications in electric or hybrid vehicles. Here, too, Contour is working with NASA. In this case, on charging technologies for landers, rovers and other extravehicular activities.

One of Contour’s key features is something it calls the Tunable Cathode, which can be customized during the manufacturing process depending on the application. The batteries are made out of carbon fluoride. The company claims that its technology offers up to 8 times the performance and 3 times the energy capacity of similar-sized Lithium cells. They can operate in temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius and as high as 160 degrees Celsius.

Lind says Contour aside from military and defense applications, its batteries could have use in medical, industrial and transportation applications.

When I spoke with him in March, Lind said manufacturing for some of Contour’s first products was scheduled to start by the end of the month. The batteries should show up in products by late in the third quarter of 2010.

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