Green

A123 spin-off 24M lands $16M to explore the next frontier of batteries

Last week, advanced battery company A123Systems announced that it was spinning off a new venture called 24M Technologies, which would focus on more unorthodox energy storage innovations, including grid-scale flow batteries. One of the reasons it decided to release the new entity into the wild was so it could raise a substantial amount of funding for its projects. Now it has, banking $10 million in a first round of venture funding and a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program.

24M started off as a development program inside A123, focusing on high energy density storage systems for plug-in vehicles and electrical grids. Like many of its competitors — huge corporate giants and startups alike — the company was striving to develop grid-scale solutions that could better integrate and distribute intermittent sources of renewable power, like wind turbines and solar arrays. Now that 24M is on its own, A123 will concentrate its focus on vehicles once again.

24M will be investigating how to make lithium-ion and flow batteries more feasible for grid-scale applications (illustration of technology above). Flow batteries, in particular, are well suited for large storage needs because they operate so similarly to fuel cells. Comprised of a series of large tanks, they circulate electrolytes that allow them to continually recharge. In their current form, they are far too big for vehicles.

It’s clear that 24M is working on experimental and emerging technologies — products that may not reach commercialization for up to a decade. This is where ARPA-E, the Energy Department’s funding initiative, aimed at backing bold, high-risk, high-reward projects, really shines. The new company seems to be up its alley, especially considering how much money it has already shelled out to other flow battery innovators like ReVolt Technology. It will be partnering with MIT and Rutgers to produce results over the next several years.

24M’s recent round of funding came from Charles River Ventures, and A123Systems investor North Bridge Venture Partners.

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