May 30, 2017

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.)

The downsides: According to Joy, there really aren't any. That said, the one thing Ionic's technology isn't, is commercially available. And availability could still be years off. it's one thing to get something working in small batches, and quite another to manufacture it in the hundreds of millions.

Ionic has been working on this for several years. How long will it take to reach the market?

"I think the first batteries you will see containing the polymer will be a couple years from now."

Where will we see such batteries first, in cars, or in phones?

"While the impact is probably even greater in transportation, I think you will see it used in consumer first."

Go deeper

Biden says he's starting VP search this month

Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson / Staff

Joe Biden said he's spoken to Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama about selecting a running mate — and that he wants to build "a bench of younger, really qualified people" who can lead the nation over the course of the next four presidential cycles.

Driving the news: Biden spoke about the state of the 2020 race during a virtual fundraiser on Friday night that was opened to pooled coverage.

Trump ousting intelligence community inspector general

Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community. Photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images

President Trump notified key lawmakers on Friday that he’s firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, who first alerted Congress last September of an "urgent" complaint from an official involving Trump's correspondence with the Ukrainian president.

Why it matters: The move, to take effect in 30 days, comes amid a broader initiative to purge the administration of officials seen as disloyal to the president.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,097,909 — Total deaths: 59,131 — Total recoveries: 226,106Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 277,828 — Total deaths: 7,406 — Total recoveries: 9,772Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primary elections by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.