Dyson invests in batteries to build new products, robotics

sakti3 battery cell test lab

Batteries are tested at a Sakti3 research lab. Vacuum-cleaner maker Dyson Inc. has made a big investment in the battery tech startup.

Credit: Dyson

Vacuum cleaner maker looks to develop 100 new products in the next 4 years


By investing $15 million into supporting battery technology research, a company known for making high-end vacuum cleaners is positioning itself to expand into other products, including robotics.

Dyson Inc., a British-based technology company most known for its vacuum cleaners, announced earlier this week that it is making a multimillion-dollar investment in Michigan-based battery-tech startup Sakti3.

Dyson executives hope the batteries that come out of the investment will help the company develop 100 new products over the next four years.

"With this new technology, the possibilities go far beyond vacuums. Anything that runs on cordless power will need powerful battery technology," said Mark Taylor, Dyson's chief of research and development. "We can't give away too much just yet, but we are looking at multiple applications as we develop our 25-year pipeline of technology."

james dyson with robot vacuum Dyson Inc.

James Dyson with the company's Robot vacuum.

The battery that Sakti3 is working on is being designed to be used in anything that requires cordless power or the storage of a battery charge, Taylor said.

"The natural bet is [this could be used for] our cordless vacuums, but we have plenty of other applications that we're exploring," he told Computerworld in an email. "A workable solid-state battery would spark many new applications. Solid-state batteries are the Holy Grail – they can release power very quickly, they'll improve charge cycles and they're cheaper to manufacture. It's everything you'd want in a phone, or any other cordless appliance, really."

Taylor noted that he's not ready to talk about how Dyson might expand beyond appliances like vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, heaters and humidifiers. However, he made it clear that the company plans to expand its product lineup.

Dyson, for instance, released a robotic vacuum to compete with iRobot's well-known Roomba.

"We are already venturing into robotics," Taylor said. "We've invested $8 million in a robotics lab at Imperial College of London. At our core, we're a technology company that's about solving problems, so, yes, we will be venturing into other categories. We just can't reveal what they are yet."

The company is getting behind Sakti3 and its research because its battery technology has the highest known energy density to date, Taylor said. Sakti3's technology also is supported by a simple and inexpensive manufacturing process, and is more environmentally friendly and scalable, he said.

Taylor added that the Sakti3 base platform more easily supports continued improvements in energy density.

Sakti3 could not be reached for comment before deadline.

Nearly 10 years ago, Sakti3, which is born out of the University of Michigan, began optimizing automotive batteries. The company moved from focusing on conventional lithium-ion batteries to solid-state batteries, which are more easily miniaturized and have less energy leakage than conventional batteries.

Sakti3 has a pilot line of batteries being tested and has raised more than $50 million in equity investments.

This story, "Dyson invests in batteries to build new products, robotics" was originally published by Computerworld.

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