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South 8 Technologies Draws Defense Industry Interest

ENERGY: LiGas Battery a Solution for ‘Extreme Environments’

South 8 Technologies is expanding its market reach into the defense industry.

The San Diego-based company announced Aug. 16 it had closed a strategic investment with Lockheed Martin Ventures, the venture arm of Lockheed Martin for an undisclosed amount. And in June, South 8 was tapped by U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) to add its liquefied gas electrolyte (LiGas) technology to batteries made by Chicago-based NanoGraf. The two companies were awarded $550,000 for the joint project.

Cyrus Rustomji
CEO
South 8 Technologies

“The exceptional performance capabilities of the LiGas electrolytes are an enabling technology for increasingly aggressive customer requirements, particularly those set forth by the aerospace and defense industries,” said South 8 Technologies CEO Cyrus Rustomji.

South 8’s LiGas electrolyte technology is a unique approach to next-generation lithium batteries that addresses shortcomings of existing liquid electrolyte and solid-state batteries. Liquified gas brings more safety and efficiency to batteries and can operate in extreme temperatures – down to -60 degrees, and up to +60 Celsius.

Aerospace, Defense Applications

“With Lockheed, together with the operating temperature range of our technology and our improved safety, energy and power capabilities, it makes the LiGas electrolyte a really superior technology for their aerospace and defense applications,” Rustomji said. “These guys work in extreme environments, land sea air and space, and they need a versatile technology that’ll cross the boundaries of these areas to continue operating their aggressive systems.”

Rustomji said Lockheed will initially work to qualify South 8’s technology to then distribute it throughout the defense giant’s many divisions and share the batteries’ capabilities. “So whether somebody wants a one cell battery pack or a one thousand cell battery pack, they are able then to procure this technology from South 8 and then enable that variety of system applications.”

Chris Moran
VP & GM
Lockheed Martin Ventures

Chris Moran, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures, praised South 8 as a “forward-thinking” company “motivated to bring the right solutions to our customers.”

“We hope to leverage South 8’s LiGas technology to provide energy solutions that increase safety and energy density while achieving all-weather performance, enabling better field performance,” he added.

Possible use cases for South 8’s batteries include everything from connected battlefields, unmanned aerial vehicles and subzero power to all-weather energy applications for grid storage and power backup to marine sea monitoring, electric boats and submarines.

Safety, Standardization

For the DEVCOM-funded partnership with NanoGraf, South 8 will provide its technology to NanGraf’s 3.8 Ah 18650 cell to reduce or eliminate catastrophic failure when exposed to extreme temperatures or nail penetration, in accordance with military performance specification.

“Nanograph has this unique technology to increase the cell level energy. However, they do have difficulty achieving the required safety and temperature operation specs that the industry demands,” Rustomji said. “So by combining the two technologies we can check all those boxes between operation temperature, safety and extremely high-energy density as well.”

The Army is also hoping to standardize the two technologies into a variety of their systems.

“Today they have a wide variety of battery cells they are procuring and the distribution and logistics of that is kind of a headache for them, particularly because they are procuring these from overseas and not always from friendly countries,” Rustomji said. “Their trying to domesticate that supply chain, standardize their cell technology so they can operate over a wider variety of battlefield environments.”

Fundraising

South 8’s technology has attracted interest from multiple markets and investors in a relatively short period of time.

In May of last year, the company raised a $12 million Series A led by Anzu Partners with participation from LG Technology Ventures, Shell Ventures, Foothill Ventures and Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation. In January of this year, the company was awarded a $3.15 million U.S. Department of Energy award to apply its technology to developing a more reliable EV battery.

South 8 is currently working to fulfill orders for Lockheed and other existing customers, Rustomji said. “As we demonstrate and validate our technology to these customers, we anticipate quicker revenue growth into the future as these larger purchase orders come in.”

Because of the versatility of the LiGas technology, South 8 will eventually expand its business model to work with larger cell manufacturers to take the technology “and really scale it from there,” he added.

South 8 Technologies

Founded: 2016
CEO: Cyrus Rustomji
Business: Liquified gas electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries
HEADQUARTERS: Pacific Beach, San Diego
Funding: $12M Series A; 3.152M DOE award
Employees: 25
Website: www.south8technologies.com
Notable: South 8’s LiGas technology enables batteries to operate in temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius.

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