By Matthew Broersma
Vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson has agreed to invest $15 million (£10 million) in a U.S. start-up whose technology could double battery capacity for products, including smartphones and electric cars.
Sakti3, founded in 2008 by former University of Michigan engineering professor Ann Marie Sastry, produces lithium-ion batteries that use solid-state technology rather than the liquid electrolytes, which have in some cases caused fires.
The technology is safer than liquid-based lithium-ion technology, introduced by Sony in 1991, and could also effectively double battery life, according to the company.
The deal gives Dyson the exclusive use of Sakti3's technology in both its existing products and new product areas.
Sir James Dyson, the engineering entrepreneur who founded the company, said Sakti3's technology is the most promising approach to increasing battery life it has come across.
"Sakti3 has achieved leaps in performance, which current battery technology simply can't," he said, adding he hopes to see the technology in Dyson products within the next three years.
Sastry said the joint venture is aimed at scaling up new ideas and making them "a commercial reality."
The batteries are to be used first in Dyson products, such as new versions of its cordless or robotic vacuum cleaners. Dyson last year announced a four-year £1 billion research and development plan that includes an expansion of its robotics activities.
The company introduced its first autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner in September, using 12 batteries, twice the number found in its cordless vacuum cleaner. Dyson said last year it would invest £5m in a new Imperial College London robotics laboratory, and its new Wiltshire campus also includes a robotics lab.
Sakti3 had previously raised $30 million from backers including General Motors, Japanese conglomerate Itochu and investment group Khosla Ventures.