Munich: European major Airbus Defence and Space has invested in US-based Amprius Inc. in current equity funding to further boost the development of new generation batteries based on Silicon Nanowire Anode technology, a company statement said today.
The investment will help drive the development of higher volume production capacity along with higher energy density cells for Airbus Defence and Space aerospace programmes, including the Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite and Urban Air Mobility innovation initiatives.
Zephyr is currently the only one operating in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 and running exclusively on solar power, providing persistent local satellite-like services and supporting a wide range of applications and tasks.
“This partnership re-inforces the link between two market leaders, the newest generation batteries of the market matched with the most advanced HAPS programme,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Airbus Unmanned Aerial Systems.
The first to introduce 100 per cent silicon anodes in lithium ion batteries to the market in 2013, Amprius manufactures the highest energy density commercial batteries in the industry. The company’s products and technology platforms include a 100 per cent silicon nanowire anode, silicon-graphite composite anodes, lithium-rich cathodes, and high voltage electrolytes tailored for silicon.
“We are extremely pleased to be working with Airbus and supplying batteries for the Zephyr programme,” said Jon Bornstein, chief operating officer of Amprius. “The incorporation of Amprius’ 100 per cent silicon nanowire anode-based lithium ion batteries into the Zephyr platform represents an important validation of this technology. Likewise, our development of high energy power cells for Urban Air Mobility will enable exciting opportunities in new aviation markets.”
Amprius Inc.’s high energy density batteries are used for smartphones, wearables, drones, robotics, aerospace vehicles, electrical transportation, and military equipment.
Zephyr is the world’s leading, solar–electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both commercial and military customers.
Zephyr will provide the potential to revolutionise disaster management, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills. It provides persistent surveillance, tracing the world’s changing environmental landscape and will be able to provide communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.
Zephyr is enabled by the latest in battery technology. Both the increase in production volumes of the new generation batteries and research for future development will be used to further the Zephyr programme and build on its market leading position.
NOTE: Airbus is in the business of aeronautics, space and related services. In 2018, it generated revenues of €64 billion and employed a workforce of around 134,000. Airbus offers a range of passenger airliners. Airbus also provides tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as space solutions. In helicopters, Airbus provides civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.
NOTE: Amprius Inc. manufactures high energy and high capacity lithium-ion batteries with the industry’s highest energy density cells. The company’s corporate headquarters is in Fremont, California, where it maintains an R&D lab and pilot manufacturing facility for the fabrication of silicon nanowire anodes and cells. Amprius Inc. has a materials R&D lab in Nanjing, China; and a high volume battery manufacturing facility in Wuxi, China.
NOTE: The original target mission of the Zephyr is to provide local persistence at an affordable price with a re-usable solar-powered aircraft, providing a wide scope of applications, ranging for example from maritime surveillance and services, border patrol missions, communications, forest fire detection and monitoring, or navigation. Operating in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 feet / 21 kilometers, the ultra-lightweight Zephyr has a wingspan of 25 meters and a weigh of less than 75 kg, and flies above weather (clouds, jet streams) and above regular air traffic, covering local or regional footprints.
Ideally suited for ‘local persistence’ (ISR/Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), the Zephyr has the ability to stay focused on a specific area of interest (which can be hundreds of miles wide) while providing it with satellite-like communications and Earth observation services (with greater imagery granularity) over long periods of time without interruption.
Not quite an aircraft and not quite a satellite, but incorporating aspects of both, the Zephyr has the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of a UAV. The only civil aircraft that used to fly at this altitude was Concorde and only the famous military U2 and SR-71 Blackbird could operate at similar levels.
The Zephyr successfully achieved several world records, including the longest flight duration without refuelling when in 2018, on its maiden flight, the Zephyr S, the first production model of the aircraft, flew for over 25 days and achieved very high altitude records of 71, 140 feet (over 21 kilometers).