Co-Founder, A123 Systems /
“Basic research provides the critical ‘seed corn’ for our nation’s technological innovations. Certainly that was true in the case of A123, which grew out of DOE-funded basic research into new battery concepts at MIT and is today developing batteries and battery systems to enable the electrification of transportation and improved efficiency for the ‘smart’ electric grid.”
Dr. Yet-Ming Chiang
Dr. Bart Riley
Energy Technologies/Renewable Energy
$52 million FY08
TSC MEMBER INSTITUTION(S):
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Energy
ENABLING A NEW ERA OF SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION
ABOUT THE COMPANY:
In the mid-1990s, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries came to be widely used in cell phones and laptop computers due to their small size, light weight and high energy density. However, this first generation technology did not have the additional necessary attributes of high power, improved safety, long life, environmental friendliness, and low cost to enable large-scale applications with true energy impact.
As a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yet-Ming Chiang believed that certain metal phosphate compounds he was studying could be the basis for a new class of lithium ion batteries for energy applications. He co-founded Watertown, Massachusetts-based A123 Systems in 2001 to bring this new battery technology into mass production.
A123’s first customer was Black & Decker, which used the high-power lithium ion batteries in a new line of power tools. Today the company is helping to bring in a new era of sustainable transportation by building advanced batteries and battery systems for energy efficient vehicles such as in plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs). These vehicles include passenger cars as well as trucks and buses. A123 is also developing new energy storage products for the electric grid to increase efficiency, lower emissions, and make the most of existing assets. The company believes that these products will also assist the integration of renewables such as wind and solar power by smoothing their output and stabilizing the grid.
UNIVERSITY-BASED RESEARCH CONNECTION:
A123 Systems was born out of research by Yet-Ming Chiang at MIT and founded in 2001 by Chiang, Bart Riley, who became Chief Technical Officer, and Ric Fulop, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing. Many aspects of A123’s core technology were exclusively licensed from MIT through a royalty-based agreement. After a year off in 2002 to help get the company on its feet, Chiang has been back at MIT full-time teaching and continuing his research, and sits on A123’s board.
ROLE OF FEDERAL RESEARCH FUNDING:
Chiang’s materials basic research at MIT was supported by the US Department of Energy.
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