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Gates-backed Liquid Metal Battery secures $15M

Awardee Story Gates-backed Liquid Metal Battery secures $15M
Date: May 24, 2012
Author: Patricia Resende
Source: Mass High Tech

Liquid Metal Battery Corp., a company spun out of MIT in 2010 and funded by Bill Gates, has secured a $15 million Series B round of funding, the company announced Thursday.

Khosla Ventures led the investment, which included Gates and energy company Total SA. The round comes after an initial round from private sources. Research was funded with $12 million from the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT, the Chesonis Family Foundation at MIT, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Total.

The funding will take the company from research to commercialization, CEO Phil Giudice told Mass High Tech. Giudice, who previously served as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Undersecretary of Energy and as the Commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources, said the round is intended to enable the company to reach various milestones between now and two years from now, when the product will be ready.

The new liquid metal battery, devised by researchers at MIT, could one day could be used as a more consistent supply of renewable energy on the electric grid, according to researchers. The battery developed at MIT uses a mechanism to alloy and dealloy a battery, thus giving rise to voltage. Reversing the current reenergizes the battery, Don Sadoway, an MIT professor and founder of Liquid Metal Battery, wrote in a Journal of the American Chemical Society article.

In any technological development we have to move just as fast as we can to achieve technical milestones, said Giudice. The plan is to first get cells at commercial scales and then take stacks of cells and put on the battery management system and electronics. The last step is fully commercialization.

LMBC also said that Andrew Chung, partner at Khosla Ventures, has joined its Board of Directors. Prior to Khosla Ventures, Chung was in the cleantech practice at Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Gates became interested in the company after he was pointed to Sadoways online course, according to Giudice. He was engaged and reached out to Don (Sadoway) to have conversation and visited with him at MIT. In the course of the conversation Bill Gates told Don he would be happy to invest. Total also joined Bill Gates for the A round in 2010, according to Giudice.

LMBC currently has 20 employees and has plans to expand to 50 by the end of 2013.

It is an exciting time for the company, according to Giudice, who was initially asked by Sadoway to help find a CEO for the company.

I was strictly involved as a friend and council and developed a rapport with Dr. Sadoway, he said. As I got closer to what had been accomplished on campus and what was in place with initial investors and the potential in the market all of this lined up for me to be super enthused as to the potential of Liquid Metal Battery and I continue to be.

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