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Aquion Energy Inc. in Lawrenceville has built the better battery

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With a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy, Lawrenceville's Aquion Energy Inc. will begin commercialization of a cheaper, longer-lasting, and more environmentally friendly battery this month.

Carnegie Mellon University engineer, and Aquion co-founder, Jay Whitacre developed the technology for a sodium powered alternative to traditional lithium ion batteries in 2008. The technology offers a slew of large-scale applications, such as mitigating the overload of power grids and providing a safer and cheaper alternative to the lead acid batteries often used in developing countries.

"The power grid is not stable," explains Whitacre. "This is an issue when we talk about putting many sources of renewable energy on the grid, like wind or solar. They're not constant or steady, and you need something to buffer that out. You're better off hybridizing your solar energy with some kind of energy storage solution."

In layman's terms, that means Aquion's sodium battery could potentially provide a cheap alternative to large gas powered plants, help institute broader use of sustainable energy sources, and better protect cities and municipalities from power loss.

Whitacre and his Harvard MBA co-founder, Ted Wiley, are working out of a 42,500 square foot warehouse space on 39th Street, where they will soon add 15 new employees to their roster of 17 full-time employees and four interns. Aquion plans to develop a prototype manufacturing facility in the space, and begin producing batteries the size of a refrigerator within the next year. Those units will then be sent to a third party tester, AES Corp, in Virginia for validation.

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Source: Jay Whitacre, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Aquion Energy Inc.
Writer: John Farley

Photograph courtesy CMU.

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