January 4, 2019: Former ALABC technical program manager Boris Monahov joined the electrolyte maker start-up Tydrolyte’s advisory board on January 1, the company announced. He joins Stephen Johnson, a former EPA administrator, who was appointed chair of the board on November 27.
Speaking to BESB, Monahov said the firm’s secretive electrolyte chemistry, which the company says is non-toxic, completely safe and can replace sulfuric acid in lead batteries, is ‘part sulfuric acid but not sulfuric acid’ and can be dropped in as a direct replacement without the need for upgrading equipment.
“If you come to me tomorrow and say ‘I’ve invented a new design with twice more energy but we need to develop new equipment and factories and buy new’, this will never work,” he said. “But this is the electrolyte – so you keep the machines, still mix the paste, assemble the batteries – it’s just what you put inside the battery that changes.
“In principle at the end of the day this will work and this is what Tydrolyte is doing. Unfortunately this is not like a piece of cake. There are so many tests in which a battery can fail you have to do them all and only some of them have as yet been done.
“But so far we have seen no accelerated corrosion, a lot less water loss, there is sulfation but a lot can be done for this with additives — we don’t know what the impact is yet but the first encouraging test results show that the way the new material works is a little bit better than in regular batteries.
“This situation is extremely attractive and the scale of the invention is huge.”
Monahov said that many approaches had been taken over the years to improve the performance of lead batteries.
“One is to change the design — like with the bipolar design. Or change the components, for instance the separators. Attempts have been made to change the charging performance and the active materials — with catastrophic results,” he said.
“Here even the preliminary results were not bad, the very first trials. On the second trials I wondered how it was even possible — but that obviously it was compatible with lead dioxide and metallic lead.
“This company needs some help to accelerate the process of penetration into the market. Lithium batteries were practically unknown 10 or 15 years ago, but they are huge now.
“To keep the market position, lead batteries need to improve both technical performance and environmentally. Recycling is good, no one else does that, but sulfuric acid is one of the most toxic acids and it can be really dangerous. If the acidic danger can be removed this is something that hasn’t been talked about in 160 years of lead batteries.”
Tydrolyte CEO Paul Bundschuh, formerly an investment banker and also CEO at the energy firm Ideal Power, admitted the firm was secretive about its technology while patent applications were under way.
“This is fundamentally a breakthrough chemistry with potential in many industries,” he said. “It’s a game changer and we need to follow the correct intellectual property strategy.
“We are already working with almost all of the large lead battery companies in the US and starting to talk to those in Asia. We are delighted to welcome Boris to the board and he will help get us the market share we need.”