CPI press release showcasing collaboration with Seeds

Laying the foundation for the next generation of energy harvesting systems

“CPI has worked hand-in-hand with Seeds Capital to develop their carbon nano-fibre materials, taking them from concept to touching distance of high-value applications, bringing the enormous potential of next generation energy harvesting technology within reach.”

Innovating nano-scale materials from concept to reality

Seeds Capital focuses on the design and development of advanced solar and electrode inks using it’s unique carbon nano-fibres as the core ingredient to vastly improve the performance of solar cells and battery technology.

Seeds Capital have worked together with the CPI on advanced projects to develop their novel carbon nano-fibre technology from idea, through proof of concept, to materials development, identification of applications, production, and process scale-up.

Seeds and CPI have innovated techniques to produce the nano-structures, formulate them into advanced inks, pair the solar inks with electrode inks to fabricate device structures and develop techniques using printable methods to integrate the inks onto a variety of surfaces including plastic, glass and aluminium, leading the way for more advanced materials integration of energy systems for the automotive and construction industries.

Achievements

Inputs

  • Support from the National Formulation Centre, the National Printable Electronics Centre, and the Graphene Applications Centre at CPI.
  • Knowledge in nano-scale formulation, solar cell energy harvesting, battery electrode materials.
  • Spin coating expertise in Formulations and Printed Electronics.
  • Links with supply chain providers and network of potential application companies.
  • ERDF funding via the IMPACT Project
  • ERDF funding via the CPI and Durham University COAST Project

Outputs

  • Successful proof of concept of the nano-scale materials and production scale-up capability.
  • Production of prototype materials for solar energy harvesting applications.
  • Evidence of environmental sustainability – production using sustainable sourced materials and ‘green’ solvents.
  • Identification of routes to market.
  • Definition of ongoing research and development programme and identification of potential application partnerships.

Outcomes

  • Advancement of nano-fibre materials technology and development of applications.
  • ERDF COAST project support led to securing of an Innovate UK grant for sustainable innovation.
  • Continued collaboration of Seeds Capital and CPI with submission of grant applications for prestigious MoD/DASA funding, Business Durham development funding under the DFIB programme, and an InnovateEDGE Catapult grant.
  • Development of a £1.5m R&D programme with UK grants secured and support for significant capital fund raising round.
  • Demonstration of it’s proprietary organic carbon technology’s enormous potential for energy harvesting materials, which will lead to efficient and effective decarbonised, application specific, energy capture and storage.

The Challenge

Industry faces significant pressures to decarbonise and limit the impacts of climate change. Renewable energy harvesting and storage technology could greatly increase the means to mitigate these pressures. However, current state-of-the-art battery technologies are likely to fail to meet the needs of industry, whether through capacity or scale.

Seeds Capital, who are based alongside CPI at NETPark in County Durham, developed a concept for using novel carbon nano-fibres formulated into inks to be used for a variety of energy harvesting and storage purposes. These carbon nanostructures can increase the bandwidth of energy (including both visible and non-visble energy) that can be absorbed from the solar spectrum. The novel carbon nanostructures can also be optimised to provide a way to store electrical charges by increasing the surface area of a single atomically thick sheet of carbon, therefore increasing the energy density of the material when used in battery electrodes.

Organic, energy-efficient, printable solar inks coupled with energy storage are flexible and scalable in both quantity and power output, making systems more resilient in the face of crisis and present the opportunity to develop a truly distributive energy platform to generate and store power at or near where it will be used.

Seeds continue to secure a range of public and private capital to fund the proof of prototype work, whilst also focussing on developing the technology from organic, sustainable sources, and to prove the scalability of the manufacturing process.

Seeds, in partnership with CPI, are developing this potentially market leading technology, which focuses on advanced materials integration to give surfaces the ability to capture and store solar energy which could transform multiple markets including the electrification of vehicles and implementation of smarter, more energy efficient, cities.

How CPI helped

Early in the developmental phase, Seeds approached CPI for advice and support. Working with CPI gave the project credible support when approaching stakeholders for funding of grants and investment and Seeds was able to successfully secure funding for a project from Innovate UK.

CPI continued to provide Seeds with support through the different research and development stages, including accessing grants from ERDF funding via projects that included COAST, ESM and IMPACT.

CPI leveraged its expertise in nano-scale formulation, printable electronics, graphene and battery electrode materials, as well as its state-of-the-art facilities at NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham to research and develop Seeds’ technology and prove the scale-up of processing methodologies.

Seeds secured private investment capital for projects in 2020/21 to work with CPI to prototype a solar cell and develop the materials to a level required to achieve this. Seeds leveraged this capital with the Innovate UK grant award to examine scaling the production of the materials for different markets and applications.

Currently, Seeds and CPI are working to increase yields and volumes of the novel carbon nano-fibres and optimise the materials for applications, such as supercapacitors, solar cells and battery electrodes. The latest work completed on the conduction measurements of the materials indicated a strong application of the materials as the main component of battery electrodes for use in electric vehicles. Seeds and CPI are currently entering workshops to access the commercial roadmap ahead and identify potential industry collaborations to forge routes to market.

The most recent ERDF funded work via the IMPACT project provided technical review and assessment to support bids for external funding for specific end-user applications. This led to partnering with Business Durham on RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) label development and working with the Defence and Security Agency (DASA) on funding for development of lightweight power generating materials for solar cell applications.

Seeds are currently working towards further capital investment rounds and are working with CPI to build a 2-year £1.5 million Research and Development programme that will enable the research to be commercialised and moved to scale manufacturing of the materials.

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