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Safire Technology Group improves Lithium-ion batteries

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of posts about companies LaunchTN has supported through the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund. 

Knoxville-based company Safire Technology Group is working to improve Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries — making them safe, ballistically-resilient, and able to perform in extreme environments for use with the U.S Air Force. 

What problems are the company solving?
“Li-ion batteries are inherently susceptible to fire and explosion, especially when subjected to a force or impact,” Safire Group’s Co-Founder and COO Mike Grubbs said. . 

The company’s technology, SAFIRE™, is the world’s only drop-in additive for Li-ion batteries that prevents fire and explosion by instantaneously converting the electrolyte in a Li-ion battery from liquid-to-solid upon impacts, such as electric vehicle crashes or ballistic events. 

Incorporating SAFIRE enables batteries to become ballistically resilient, which offers many benefits to the U.S. Air Force.  

For example, Safire Group is currently working to create multi-functional body armor that could offer both ballistic protection and charging capability for battery powered devices, which would significantly reduce the weight a soldier currently carries. 

And the company’s technology also creates performance improvements in extreme hot and cold environments, Grubbs said. 

Every year, 11 participating federal agencies allocate capital totaling $4 billion to SBIR/STTR programs. 

The SBIR/STTR programs, colloquially known as America’s Seed Fund, are the country’s biggest source of early-stage funding for research and development. 

America’s Seed Fund is composed of two programs: 

  1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 
  2. Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

Through its Microgrant Program, LaunchTN provides technical support to founders applying for federal SBIR/ STTR funds.

LaunchTN supports founders’ applications to the federal programs, and if the founders land that funding, then LaunchTN invites the company to apply for matching funds to further accelerate their business development.

Safire Technology Group participated in LaunchTN’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund for Small Business Innovation Research. 

Now the company has three contracts — two SBIR Phase II and one Phase I — to demonstrate capabilities with the U.S Air Force. 

The company is working to demonstrate its capabilities in five separate use cases — an electric motorcycle, multifunctional body armor, a robot dog, a sensor tower, and a ground vehicle.

“The goal of our Phase II contracts is to demonstrate our capabilities in these use cases and then progress to a larger production-level contract this year,” Grubbs said. 

Support in Tennessee
The company’s technology was invented at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), so being close to the expertise there is a huge benefit, Grubbs said. 

The company also participated in the University of Tennessee’s Spark Accelerator program and has found lab space and interns through the university. 

“Tennessee’s financial support to Safire Group has been unmatched by any other state,” Grubbs said. “We are thankful for the state’s openness and enthusiasm around investing in our success.”

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