SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, France – June 08, 2022 | Silicon anode-based lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are one solution envisioned to improve battery performances and replace graphite. This technology boasts greater electro-chemical performances. Companies operating in the automotive and battery industries are investing a lot to develop electric vehicles (EVs) and other systems with better energy density, safety, autonomy, charge duration and lifetime. $1.9B was the cumulative funding figure for silicon anode start-ups in 2021, according to IDTechEx, and the global silicon battery market size is estimated to grow from $38M in 2020 to $177M by 2025 at a CAGR of 36.2%, according to MarketsandMarkets.
Several material manufacturers (Sila Nanotechnology, NanoGraf, OneD Material, Nexeon, etc.) have announced the commercial production of silicon active materials for Li-ion batteries. Several battery manufacturers have also announced the commercial availability of silicon anode Li-ion cells (Amprius, StoreDot, Samsung, Panasonic, Murata, etc.). On the car-makers’ side, we are witnessing strategic acquisitions and partnerships. For example, Tesla acquired battery start-up SiLion in 2021.
All year long, Knowmade’s analysts investigate patenting activities related to silicon anode-based Li-ion batteries. “By analyzing the patent landscape, you perceive the strategies and technologies the leading companies are adopting, identify the newcomers that go under the radar, and uncover valuable start-up companies that own fundamental patents on groundbreaking technologies. This can help for making strategic investment and/or collaboration choices to ensure your position tomorrow”, affirms Arnaud Capgras, Technology and Patent Analyst Battery & Materials at Knowmade.
As such, Knowmade has applied patent landscape analysis to silicon anode technology, providing a comprehensive view of the silicon Li-ion battery patent landscape along the whole supply chain (electrode materials, electrodes, electrolytes, battery cells).
Nexeon strategically uses its silicon anode related patents to partner key-players in battery technology
Focusing on silicon anode material-related patents, we identified that only a few non-Asian patent assignees were present among the main IP players. In Europe, Nexeon stands out from other IP players thanks to its strong patent portfolio. Moreover, the company has recently formed partnerships with great battery players around the world.
Nexeon is a British pure-play silicon anode material manufacturer, spun off from Imperial College in 2006, which has announced more and more partnerships since 2021. In January 2021, PPES (Toyota and Panasonic joint venture) and Nexeon announced a partnership on silicon anode development. In July 2021, the company announced that it would work with its partners, Britishvolt and University College London (UCL), to deliver test cells with a combination of advanced Li-ion cell design and novel silicon anode material (see the SABRE project). In early 2022, Nexeon licensed its NSP-1 technology (silicon material solution) to advanced materials giant SKC (subsidiary of SK Group), and both companies entered into a strategic partnership for volume manufacturing Nexeon’s silicon anode materials ($80M investment). While the present article focuses on Nexeon’s patents, Knowmade published a previous article in April 2022 focusing on SK Innovation.
Nexeon owned more than 70 patent families (inventions) related to silicon anode-based Li-ion batteries, comprising more than 170 granted patents and more than 60 pending patent applications. The first patents filed by Nexeon were published in 2007, and the company later acquired several patents from AEA Technology/ABSL Power Solutions (in 2009), Imperial College Innovations (between 2008 and 2010), Leyden Energy (in 2014), Evonik Degussa (in 2019), and Orange Power (between 2018 and 2021). These patents are mainly related to silicon-based anode materials with composites (silicon/carbon, silicon/silicon oxides, etc.). They claim a different structure of silicon/carbon composites like core-shells (Si@Carbon, etc.) and different structures of silicon particles (pillars, fibers, tubes, etc). Lately, in 2021, Nexeon transferred some patents to SK Group (EP2415108, EP2430686, EP2771929, EP2810321). The silicon-based materials claimed in these patents are mainly related to silicon-comprising porous particles, silicon pillars, ribbon-like particles, silicon compositions including graphite, etc.
Nexeon owns enforceable patents mainly in the US and Europe (see figure 2), and is now showing an interest in strengthening its IP position in Asia, especially in Japan and China, as evidenced by the countries targeted by its current pending patent applications.
Main technologies involved through Nexeon’s silicon anode-related patent portfolio
Nexeon’s patent portfolio is mainly focused on silicon anode materials (see figure 3), with patents mainly related to core-shell and silicon/carbon composites (graphite, CNTs/CNFs, graphene, soft carbon, hard carbon, amorphous carbon). The company also holds a few patents on pure silicon, doped silicon and material coated with organics or other inorganics. Nexeon owns several key patents claiming non-composite silicon particles made using silicon etching methods. These particles can have a fiber-shape (US9583762), pillars on their surface (patents US8772174, US9871244, US9184438, US10050275, US8932759) or be porous (patents US9871248, US9553304, EP2794954, US8124279).
Recent patents on silicon anode materials describe various silicon composites with different compositions (silicon/porous carbon framework, Silicon@pyrolytic carbon, Silicon@SiO2@SiC) and corresponding manufacturing methods.
Nexeon’s patents on battery cells are related to the use of functionalized silicon active materials (US10847790) and the use of additives (VC, FEC) in liquid electrolytes (US8945774). The company has not filed patent applications on anodes since 2017, but most of its patent families on anodes are still alive. Nexeon’s alive patents on anodes are mainly related to specific anode composition (carbon/graphite/silicon ratio, structured silicon electrode, polycarboxylic/PVDF binder, polymer coating) and the use of silicon or silicon composite particles with specific physico-chemical characteristics. Nexeon holds one patent family on cellulose binder mixed with a chelating agent (EP2430687).
Nexeon patent infringement, a case
In 2015, Nexeon filed a patent infringement suit against OneD Material and EaglePicher Technologies (case 1:15-cv-00955). The accused products are silicon/graphite anode materials called SINANODE®. Both companies were accused of manufacturing, licensing and selling silicon/graphite anode material infringing on Nexeon patents US8940437 (claims directed to compositions of discrete silicon particles), US8597831 (claims directed to electrodes for electrochemical cells) and US9583762 (claims directed to porous structures for lithium-ion battery electrodes where the porous structures include silicon-comprising elongated elements, and methods for fabricating such structures). This lawsuit was closed in 2018 with a joint dismissal following a settlement between OneD Material and Nexeon.
Looking at Nexeon’s patent portfolio helps us better understand their expertise and know-how, learn more about their R&D investments in the field and the technology readiness level they have reached, while providing clues as to the strategies they are pursuing and products they are building. Patent investigation reveals that Nexeon owns a strong patent portfolio, which is clearly a competitive advantage and an asset when developing valuable partnerships with big companies such as SK Group and PPES (Toyota/Panasonic joint venture) for silicon anode development and volume manufacturing.
Silicon anode-based lithium-ion batteries worlwide patent activity
In Knowmade’s silicon anode patent landscape report, analysts detail other patent portfolios owned by big South Korean and Japanese companies (Samsung, LG Chem, Panasonic, etc.), Chinese companies (CATL, SVOLT, Shanshan Energy, etc.) and non-Asian companies (Amprius, StoreDot, Global Graphene).
Patenting activity in the battery field is very much thriving, and attractive at every level of the supply chain, especially on hot topics such as silicon anodes, NMC cathodes, and solid-state batteries. In such a highly competitive and dynamic environment, it becomes increasingly critical to have good knowledge of the patent landscape and understand the strategy of the different players. As such, Knowmade publishes reports and sets up monitoring services in order to track and analyze the competitors’ R&D and IP strategies, to reveal where industry leaders, newcomers and start-ups are focused, and give an early view into the strategies they are pursuing, technologies they are investing in and products they are building.
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About the author
Arnaud Capgras, Arnaud works for Knowmade in the field of Materials Chemistry and Energy storage. He holds a Chemistry-Process Engineering Degree from the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering School of Lyon (CPE Lyon, France). He also holds the International Industrial Property Studies Diploma (Patents) from the CEIPI (Strasbourg, France).
Knowmade is a Technology Intelligence and IP Strategy consulting company specialized in analysis of patents and scientific information. The company helps innovative companies and R&D organizations to understand their competitive landscape, follow technology trends, and find out opportunities and threats in terms of technology and patents.
Knowmade’s analysts combine their strong technology expertise and in-depth knowledge of patents with powerful analytics tools and methodologies to turn patents and scientific information into business-oriented report for decision makers working in R&D, Innovation Strategy, Intellectual Property, and Marketing. Our experts provide prior art search, patent landscape analysis, scientific literature analysis, patent valuation, IP due diligence and freedom-to-operate analysis. In parallel the company proposes litigation/licensing support, technology scouting and IP/technology watch service.
Knowmade has a solid expertise in Compound Semiconductors, Power Electronics, Batteries, RF Technologies & Wireless Communications, Solid-State Lighting & Display, Photonics, Memories, MEMS & Solid-State Sensors/Actuators, Semiconductor Manufacturing, Packaging & Assembly, Medical Devices, Medical Imaging, Microfluidics, Biotechnology, Pharmaceutics, and Agri-Food.