Seeo, a startup based on LBNL technology, advances safe, lightweight lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). The Hayward, California-based startup, founded in 2007, developed DryLyte™ batteries delivering industry-leading energy density with high reliability and safety. In 2015, Seeo was acquired by Bosch, one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers.
A team of LBNL researchers seeking ways to stabilize the lithium-electrolyte interface in lithium ion batteries and address fire safety concerns invented the technology behind Seeo. The team, led by Nitash Balsara, applied its expertise in advanced materials to develop a block copolymer that carried electrons and ions along parallel, nanoscale pathways. Unlike organic liquid electrolytes in other lithium ion batteries, the rigid block copolymer resisted dendrite growth, the cause of shorts and, occasionally, explosions. In addition, the LBNL nanomaterial could be incorporated into existing lithium battery manufacturing systems. The team won a 2008 R&D 100 Award for their discovery.
The LBNL researchers decided the most effective way to develop the technology was to license it and form a startup company. Seeo’s goal was to create a new class of safe, high-energy, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for the transportation industry. The company was awarded a $6.2M DOE grant through the Smart Grid and Energy Storage Program and a $4.9M award from DOE’s Vehicle Technologies program, and it raised $44M over six venture funding rounds. Through a proprietary user agreement for LBNL’s Advanced Light Source, a DOE national user facility, the small business continued to test and advance its block copolymer material. Seeo ultimately established a pilot manufacturing line at its Hayward headquarters to produce the lightweight, non-flammable DryLyte™ battery.
In 2015, the multinational company Bosch acquired Seeo to support electromobility product development. In its press release, Bosch leaders stated they sought Seeo’s expertise in solid-state cells, which they viewed as a breakthrough technology for durable, safe EV batteries.