In my opening remarks at the Advanced Materials Commercialization Summit on May 13, 2014, I discussed several “giga goals” facing advanced materials in the energy, electronics, health and sustainability markets.
In energy, batteries are widely seen as the Achilles heel of the electric vehicle. A Tesla replacement battery is $30,000 or about a third of the value of the car. On top of that, the range of an electric car is only about half that of a combustion car. The US DOE has a cost target of $5,000 per battery ($125/kWhr) by 2020 and an energy density target of 250 Wh/kg. The question put forth to the battery producers is how will we achieve these lofty goals? Well, significant work needs to happen. Perhaps this is why Telsa is proposing the largest battery factory in the world. When completed, it will produce batteries for 500,000 Tesla cars representing 35 GWh of energy per year. This one factory will produce more batteries than the current world production capacity. The Tesla Giga factory will reduce cost through scale but won’t alone solve all of the battery issues. There will need to be improvements in energy density by identifying and optimizing new materials. Pangaea has seen a number of companies work on promising technology such as layered chemistry for the cathode and silicon for the anode.
In the electronics industry, many people believe that silicon is close to being tapped out for power electronics. We are seeing this in grid and renewable power applications. The semiconductor industry is now turning to wide bandgap semiconductor (WBS) material to drive growth. Wide bandgap semiconductors are made from materials such as SiC, GaN and AlN. They can operate at 10 times higher voltage than silicon, at over 300 degrees Celsius and they can save billions in energy. Moving to wide bandgap semiconductors in industrial motor systems can save the equivalent power consumed by 6.9 million homes per year. In consumer electronics and data centers, it can save the equivalent of 1.7 million homes per year and in solar and wind energy, the equivalent of 750,000 homes per year. The US government targets, in aggregate, WBS can save $250B in energy by 2030.
But there is a significant amount of work to be done. In President Obama’s last State of the Union Address, he announced $140 million in funding for the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute and ARPA-E recently announced $70 million in funding for WBS. At Pangaea Ventures we see a whole new generation of electronic materials being commercialized for power electronics.
There are many issues in the health industry, but one that I want to highlight is the need for new materials to deal with what has been called the “Bee Colony Collapse Disorder”. In the last few years, the bee population has collapsed in dramatic fashion, threatening the base of our agricultural industry and our food supply. The value of crops that bees pollinate is over $200 billion. The main culprit is a family of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Last year the EU banned these pesticides and the US EPA imposed a partial ban earlier this year. So, a giga issue facing the agricultural chemical industry is to find alternative pesticides to fill this huge market and fast.
In February, Beijing raised its smog alert to orange as its particulate levels climbed to 375 parts per million. The obvious question is whether industrial development on the scale of China is compatible with sustainable living. I think it can be. In fact, many of the world’s largest companies have set giga goals for GHG, water, waste, reduction in petroleum use and more. For example, BASF wants to reduce GHG per metric ton of sales products by 40% by 2020 and reduce emissions of organic substances to water by 80% by the same date. Many other companies have similar goals. See the web site www.pivotgoals.com for a list.
Through all of this, we see advanced materials innovation as the key to solving some of the world’s biggest issues faced by companies in the energy, electronics, health and sustainability markets. At the Advanced Materials Commercialization Summit hosted by Pangaea Ventures, some of the most senior thought leaders in this space from large corporations, academia, government and venture capital discussed ways to accelerate advanced materials commercialization to help achieve these and many other giga goals.