The following text is written by private investors, and this text reflects the thoughts of these investors. The text can be used for whatever you want. For discussions, please tweet to @AndSewSTHLM, @ConnyFrid or to the company covered @InsplorionAB. Also feel free to comment below.
Insplorion AB ($INSP.ST) is a private limited company located in Sweden and is traded on www.aktietorget.se. More than ten years of research has led to the development of a platform based on nanotechnology. The platform enables manufacturing of sensors with their patented technology NPS – Nano Plasmonic Sensing. The patent is approved in Japan and China and pending in the EU and the US. The sensors can be used within several areas due to their robustness and reliability. Read more about the NPS-sensor systems here: https://www.insplorion.com/en/sensor-systems/
Per April 2017, Insplorion AB has several ongoing projects wherein the sensors are optimized for commercial application. This information will focus on the vehicle battery monitoring project, which is approximating its completion.
The company has communicated that the project will be finalized by the summer of 2017. The ongoing project follows demonstrated proof-of-concept, i.e. proven success of the NPS sensors in laboratory scale battery cells both for led and Li-ion based batteries (together with the renowned Ångström advanced battery centre at Uppsala University in 2016). Currently, Insplorion is implementing the NPS sensor in a commercial prototype. This includes implementation of the sensors in the battery cells, testing and evaluation. The project will culminate into a pilot volume of battery cells. Insplorion are collaborating with AGM batteries Ltd in Thurso, UK, and an undisclosed American partner in this project. The American Partner is undisclosed for competitive reasons.
The NPS sensors allow highly sensitive in-situ monitoring of structural and chemical changes and temperature shifts, i.e. exact measurement of the SOC (state of charge), SOH (state of health/state of age) and the temperature directly in real-time inside the battery cell.
The company received an TechConnect Global Innovation Award in 2016
Technology summary for the award:
An optical fibre based sensor that uses nanoplasmonics that enables on-line monitoring of changes in at the electrode surfaces in batteries that correlates to state of charge (SOC) and state of health (SOH).
Figures of merit:
Value Proposition: Better battery management is today limited by the lack of information about the actual state inside the battery cells. Insplorion’s NPS based sensors aim to give direct input about the cell state by sensing chemical and temperature changes directly inside the battery cell via a thin optical fibre. This will enable a more correct estimate of State of charge and state of health of 10-15%, allowing each battery to be run more efficient as well as allowing longer lifetime and safer running conditions.
Okay, what is the need of nanosensors in a battery?
The BMS (batter management system) is now guessing the SOC (state of charge) and the SOH (state of health) in the battery. With sensors that can measure these values in real time, the BMS can do a much better job. Insplorion AB has proven that it makes it possible for an electric vehicle to drive 15 to 25% longer on one charge (theoretically up to 200%). It also enhances security since the BMS can detect a problem before it becomes too great, i.e. discover ill battery cells (Samsung, Airbus, Nasa).
An analogy to explain; Imagine a fireplace where many small thermometers are placed inside the fireplace. The thermometers measure the exact temperature and are connected to a FMS (fireplace management system). The FMS is measuring the precise air intake using the information gathered by the thermometers. This will make it possible to control the fire to get maximum energy out of the burning wood. In other words, less energy will evaporate. Should the fire start to get of control, the FMS could cut the air, instantly extinguishing the fire. This is essentially what Insplorion’s sensors are doing – but in a battery.
It sounds logical, why hasn’t anyone else done this?
Because it is not that easy. The technology comes from more than ten years of research. The problem the NPS sensors solve and the functions that they serve is the result of a previous pilot project with Volvo Technology AB. The Swedish car manufacturer was initially seeking methods to reduce the size of the batteries (lead batteries).
How does the technology and method work exactly?
The best answer can be found in the following PDF.
So, who are the competitors?
From an interview with the CEO made by Stockpicker (our translation):
There is not any other commercial sensor that measures the chemical changes inside the battery. What we can find is a couple of research projects and prototype projects that, even if they would reach their goal, would still use an inferior technology than ours.
We have also tried to find equal competition, but found none. The closest to competition is the PARC project developed in co-operation with LG Chem and GM. PARC’s car battery sensors are also optic fibers placed inside the battery but they only measure physical changes, i.e. pressure and temperature changes inside the battery. Thus, inferior to Insplorion’s NPS sensors that measure structural and chemical changes as well as temperature shifts inside the battery cells. The use of PARC’s sensors will also diminish once the battery manufacturers are successful in making the swelling inside the batteries disappear. The superiority of Insplorion’s sensors is therefore the ability of the NPS to measure the chemical changes inside the batteries.
Who are involved in the battery project?
The battery project started in co-operation with Volvo Technology AB. The project has been developed in close connection to Volvo, the Swedish engineering company QR Tech and the world renowned Ångström Advanced Battery Centre at Uppsala University. Since the get go, the Swedish Energy Agency has funded the project. Since the fall of 2016, an American, multinational electronic manufacturing company (undisclosed partner due to competitive reasons) has accelerated the completion of the battery project by funding the current state: the testing and piloting phase at AGM Batteries ltd.
It is noteworthy that Insplorion had sought funding from the EU’s Horizon2020 program when the unnamed American partner decided to fund the project itself to accelerate the process. Which company is this? There has been attempts made to identify the unnamed American partner in Swedish investor forums. Our bet is Littelfuse due to an already established partnership between Insplorion and Littelfuse in the Air Quality Quality Sensing Project (https://kunskapsformedlingen.se/projekt/paqsens/, Swedish). The battery sensors also fit Littelfuse’s strategy to become more prominent in the battery market. Again, this should only be considered as educated guesses. We will know the correct answer soon enough.
There is also another interesting on-going project at AGM Batteries Ltd. I refer to this project as “The parallel project”.
The parallel project
At AGM Batteries Ltd., there is a project funded by Advanced Propulsion Centre (£5,4 million). (http://www.agmbatteries.com/apc-uk-absc-jul16) – This project will collect the knowledge and experience from Dukosi, British multi-national Johnson Matthey Battery Systems, renowned British automotive company, Cosworth and academic partner, Warwick Manufacturing Group (Warwick University). Text from the site:
The key objectives of the project are to establish a robust and permanent UK based automotive battery supply chain from active lithium powder through to drivetrain integration capable of producing next generation lithium battery packs for high performance hybrid and fully electric low carbon vehicles by 2020 using highly innovative UK developed integrated smart cell BMS technology.
Certainly, it looks like there are many synergies between the two projects.
OK, so when will this become business?
The company has already decided to sell the technology on license to bigger players on the different markets. In a memorandum, the CEO has stated the following (my translation):
The prototype and the results from the project will be used in the ongoing discussions in which the multinational company has with bigger battery manufacturers, but also in the discussions of Insplorion.
This excerpt certainly appear to suggest several ongoing discussions. Surely, they are not all about the weather.
In the same memorandum, you can also read:
One scenario in a successful project outcome is that the multinational company licenses Insplorion’s technology for the specific purposes of integrating it into the products of the bigger battery manufacturers.
The market for lithium-ion batteries is growing very quickly. With the help of the Paris-agreement, countries around the world are pushing the transformation with grants, subsidies and/or by forbidding fossil-fueled vehicles.
The use of the NPS sensors is however bigger than electric vehicles. The sensors also satisfy industrial needs, the rapidly growing energy storage systems, battery-powered energy solutions for back-ups, building heating, etc.
The project will be completed by the summer of 2017. Following the completion, Insplorion is ready to proceed towards “full-scale production” (as stated in the Year-end report of 2016).
How big is the Total Addressable Market?
The battery sector for electric vehicles alone is estimated to be worth about $15.3 billion by 2020. Considering the industrial connection the company already has established, they ought to take their fair share of that market.