New Dominion Enterprises wins $2.2M in two Air Force SBIR awards for battery innovation

By Iris Gonzalez
Master Sgt. Mike Rosado tests a multi-band satellite-communications-capable tactical radio used for secure tactical communications near Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. U.S. Photo credit: Air Force photo/Capt. Ken Hall.

A San Antonio startup has received two Air Force funding awards for its proprietary battery additive that makes batteries safer and longer lasting.

New Dominion Enterprises, Inc. (NDE), an energy technology company, won two direct-to-Phase Two Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts from the Air Force AFWERX program for its battery additive innovation in February. 

The Air Force’s program office that oversees commands using tactical radios has signed a memorandum of understanding with New Dominion. NDE was awarded $1.25 million over 21 months to develop improved wearable batteries and $962.5 million over 14 months for improved battery packs for tactical radios. 

New Dominion is commercializing inorganic electrolyte materials that stabilize organic lithium-ion battery electrolytes, resulting in more durable, longer-lasting, and safer lithium batteries. NDE’s dual-use technology has potential applications ranging from consumer batteries to batteries used with electrified transportation and micropower grids. 

The energy tech startup started work on the two separate applications of their tech in mid-Ferbruary. NDE has already completed a Phase 1 SBIR and Phase 2 SBIR contract throughout 2021 and 2022 for AFWERX.

“We’ve received over $3 million in non-dilutive funding since the beginning of 2021,” NDE CEO Jay Fraser said. “We currently project $1.5 million in additional revenue in 2023.”

NDE’s technical point of contact is with the advanced power technology office at the Air Force Research Laboratory, which leads the discovery, development, and delivery of warfighting technologies for U.S. air, space, and cyberspace forces.

Some of the military’s most challenging missions are carried out by specialists who operate in remote, often hostile areas. These highly specialized Airmen are trained in a wide range of combat skills. They are FAA-certified air traffic controllers using tactical radios to call in air combat support on missions all over the globe.

“We’re providing improved performance in the power supply for their tactical radios,” said Fraser, “The end-users are the air support operations squadrons that will field test the radios using our batteries.”

Lithium-ion batteries traditionally use chemically unstable organic electrolytes prone to overheating, with some batteries even catching on fire. NDE’s battery electrolyte replacement for the unstable ones now used prolongs the batteries’ life and improves performance. 

“With our additive, you can get the same amount of power from a smaller battery configuration, or if you keep the same footprint, you’ll get more power,” Fraser said. “In every situation, every customer has a different requirement for their power cells, so we need to work closely with the customer to ensure we’re meeting their needs with the right combination of material and batteries.”

While the startup’s AFWERK contracts focus on military applications, the revenue stream helps NDE scale operations to work with commercial companies as they continue developing their product. The startup has been exploring dual-use applications for its battery additive, including high-energy batteries for electric vehicles and utility grid energy storage.

New Dominion Enterprises has eight companies evaluating its battery additive for commercial uses. NDE’s chief technology officer Tim McArthur said, “tactical radios use a common battery, so we believe we have a big market to explore. We also think our battery additive has some medical applications.”

The startup is looking to secure agreements in the private sector to develop commercial applications for its battery solution. 

“We anticipate at least one to three commercial licenses for our proprietary technology in 2023,” Fraser said. “Our pilot programs include developing a better battery for a Formula E racecar and working with a large defense contractor to improve batteries used in a classified program.”

NDE has five employees and is looking to hire. They are interested in program managers with experience working on technical projects and graduate or post-graduate advanced chemistry students for analytical chemistry lab work. McArthur said NDE would also hire a chief operations officer or COO in the long term.

The company is self-funded and is looking to launch a $3 million seed fundraising in the second or third quarter of 2023.

“We have a product, we know how to manufacture it, and we can prove it works in real-world use cases,” Fraser said. “That success can translate over to the commercial market. This is a significant opportunity for us to develop this for the military by the end of Phase 2.”

The featured image is of Master Sgt. Mike Rosado tests a multi-band satellite-communications-capable tactical radio used for secure tactical communications near Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. U.S. Photo credit: Air Force photo/Capt. Ken Hall.

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