Bend company set to license technology

It created process for reusing, recycling lithium-ion batteries

By Valerie Smith / The Bulletin

Published Jul 3, 2014 at 12:01AM

After 10 years of research, Bend-based OnTo Technology is preparing to license its technology for recycling and reusing lithium-ion batteries, those used in smartphones, electric vehicles and other gadgets.

The ability to reuse lithium-ion batteries can decrease manufacturing costs up to 30 percent, according to Steven Sloop, the founder of OnTo. For example, the lithium-ion battery pack in the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle costs $18,000, according to the automaker. It’s the most expensive component in the car.

The technology could also lower battery-replacement costs for consumers and reduce the amount of toxic waste from battery disposal, along with the associated costs.

Sloop and his research staff have developed environmentally friendly processes for recycling batteries for portable electronics and electric vehicles.

“Recycling lithium-ion batteries has some significant technical challenges,” said Sloop. “We’ve overcome those, which is a testament to our work and scientific engineering skills. The results are ways to address this important long-term problem for our partners in manufacturing.”

OnTo Technology has received about $2.5 million over the years from federal and state agencies to fund its research. It has also received research funding from manufacturers and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

As part of its research, OnTo received recycled material for testing in new cells from XALT Energy, a battery manufacturer formerly owned, in part, by Dow Chemical Co. It also tests the recycling process on scrap batteries provided by Nissan, Chrysler and XALT.

Last month, Sloop attended the third National Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C., to network with battery manufacturers. The summit showcased industry-vetted emerging technologies ready for commercialization.

Sloop shared OnTo’s latest research at the innovation summit, a gathering of emerging technology that’s ready for commercialization, and he received a great deal of interest from multiple vehicle and battery manufacturers, he said.

Emmaline Pohnl, program manager for Drive Oregon, a Portland nonprofit that promotes electric vehicles, sees OnTo Technology’s recycling techniques as a necessity for future battery manufacturing.

“Automakers and battery manufacturers have a very big incentive to invest in cost-efficient processes,” said Pohnl. “Manufacturers want to save money and at the same time keep producing as many batteries as they can.”

Drive Oregon supports OnTo Technology’s research and hopes to connect it with different companies that can benefit from OnTo’s work.

“Steve Sloop is not in a region that’s famed for battery technology,” said Pohnl. “The work that he is doing is necessary for lowering the cost of lithium-ion batteries, and electric vehicles.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0325

vsmith@bendbulletin.com