Senate approves Altair Nanotechnologies’ battery systems for use in the Navy


Altairnano says its lithium titanate packs provide energy in an environmentally sustainable manner and with safety characteristics not found in other batteries. (Photo: Altairnano)

October 8, 2007 — Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. (Nasdaq: ALTI), and the lithium-ion battery systems the company is developing, has received no small endorsement from the U.S. Senate, which has approved $5 million funding for a 2.5 megawatt stationary power supply for the U.S. Navy.

The project involves development of large, advanced lithium titanate energy storage packs to replace diesel-powered generators on the Navy’s largest ships. Altairnano’s lithium titanate energy storage packs provide energy in an environmentally sustainable manner and with safety characteristics not found in other batteries, according to the company.

Also approved by the Senate was a $2 million project for Altair’s development of nanosensors that can detect explosive materials and chemical warfare agents that might threaten soldiers in combat, with more accuracy and reliability.

“Funding for these projects helps Altair Nanotechnologies employ 90 highly-qualified staff in the Reno area, expand the high-tech work going on in Nevada, and could provide significant benefits to our armed forces,” Alan J. Gotcher, Altairnano president and chief executive, said in a news release.

Gotcher has been promoting his company’s materials before Congress for years, including during Congressional testimony in 2006, when he talked about the Navy’s plan to produce a new generation of all-electric drive ships powered by fuel cells. For that to happen, he said, “there is a need for a source of instant power-on-demand, sustainable for up to half an hour in order for the fuel cells to reach their normal operational temperature.”

The problem so far with lithium ion batteries involves their safety. It is generally accepted that the future of the auto industry appears now to be powered by batteries containing lithium-ion, the material already in wide use for long-lasting laptops and cell phones.

But, as anybody who remembers last year’s exploding Dell laptops and subsequent recall of 4 million batteries, Li-ion has a few problems to overcome before it is ready to power automobiles. But the race is on and solutions powered by companies such as Altair and A123 Systems are on the horizon.

“The hyperbole about nanotechnology is tremendous, but the potential for this technology to change our lives in many fundamental and positive ways is real,” Gotcher had told Congress. “For instance, our innovative nano-structured electrode materials for Li-ion batteries will enable realistic production of fully- electric vehicles unlike any available today. Those vehicles will, in turn, help us break our dependence on foreign oil.”

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