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Development of CDC production technologies for the next generation of supercapacitors, feasibility study

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SKLCarbon (Development of CDC production technologies for the next generation of supercapacitors, feasibility study)

Reporting period: 2014-10-01 to 2015-03-31

Skeleton Technologies (hereinafter: ST) has developed a patented nano-structured carbon material (carbide-derived-carbon, CDC) with curved-graphene structure and applications ranging from energy storage in ultracapacitors and battery electrodes, gas adsorption to hydrogen storage. ST has identified ultracapacitors as the fastest growing segment of the activated carbon market and the application closest to full commercialisation.

This study builds on two questions: 1) in which markets and in which ultracapacitor value chain stages is the demand for CDC based products the strongest; 2) which high volume CDC production options are available and which to choose?

ST researched over 70 producers and analysed key applications and markets. Two significant opportunities were identified: 1) demand for CDC in sheet form as an electrode to emerging markets (mainly Chinese) manufacturers, who can thus gain an advantage over US, Japanese and Korean competitors; 2) fully assembled CDC ultracapacitors in European and US markets for the transportation, industrial equipment, renewable energy, power grid and high-end segments.

Research demonstrates, that a significant opportunity has opened up for ST to become Europe’s largest producer of ultracapacitors, with a dominant market share, and a leading supplier of electrode sheet to emerging markets. Both in-house and outsourcing manufacturing models were evaluated with a focus on quick go-to-market times.

The study established:
1) CDC products add customer value in terms of a smaller form factor and higher efficiency, power and energy content, resulting in wide market adoption and high market potential.
2) CDC products can significantly lower the cost per kW and Wh in comparison to competing activated carbons.
3) There is an attractive high-growth market for ultracapacitor grade CDC in material form. To capture higher margin opportunities, a higher value chain position and differentiation will be achieved by supplying CDC as electrode sheet instead of raw powder.
4) Cooperation with an industrial chemical partner is the most cost effective avenue for scale-up offering a lean capital structure and a quick go-to-market cycle.
Market related objectives:

1. Analysis of the current ultracapacitor market based on a sample of at least 40 market participants:
- More than 70 potential customer activities analyzed and reviewed
- Main market applications analyzed
2. Work with the selected early adopters to identify unmet needs, production volumes (selection of four UCPs for product strategy consultations – LOIs signed by early adopters)
- Five early adopters identified
- One LoI signed
3. Quantification of market potential for CDC materials:
- market projections completed;
- P&L analysis completed.
4. Selection of three potential cooperation partners for a CDC materials-based business
Final selection of two partners for different stages of scale-up.

Production related objectives:
1. Devise a concept for CDC scale-up (clearly defined and documented product strategies and specification ranges)
- Completed and detailed in the written report.
2. Develop a project plan and budget for production set-up (quotes for raw materials and required equipment)
- Completed and detailed in the core report.
3. Devise a concept for handling the respective regulatory aspects
- Completed and detailed in the core report.
Activated carbon has a wide range of uses, including water desalination, gas adsorption for more compact storage, acting as a catalyst in fuel cells to replace precious metals and as an electrode component in advanced batteries. The total market for activated carbon is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.9 % reaching US$ 3,700 - 4,180 for 2019.

The project’s impact will be realised through a two-fold gain in ultracapacitor performance in relation to weight, volume and cost. This is a significant step-change for the ultracapacitor market, because these developments break the ‘performance barrier’ critical for smaller and lighter applications compared to the current mainstay of applications: buses, locomotives, industrial machinery, etc. A wider distribution of ultracapacitor applications to the automotive, aeromotive and other weight and volume conscious sectors would also reduce energy consumption.
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