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Ina Fried May 30
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Sun's Bill Joy is on a quest for a better battery

Photos: Bill Joy, Ionic Materials; Illustration: Rebecca Zisser

If you were to draw up a list of the most-needed technologies, a better battery would likely be near the top. Well, several years ago, then a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Bill Joy drew up just such a list and came to a similar conclusion.

Joy, the co-founder of legendary Sun Microsystems, set about trying to find a breakthrough technology and landed on Ionic Materials, a 25-person Massachusetts-based company that aims to make batteries safer and cheaper by removing liquids from the equation. Instead, Ionic's approach uses a solid plastic-like polymer instead of the liquid electrolyte.

The benefits: "It's better, it's simpler. It's cleaner. It costs less," Joy said. Most importantly, the polymer won't easily ignite, unlike lithium-ion batteries. (A company video even shows an Ionic battery being pierced by bullets.)