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Tony Fadell Zurich Switzerland 2019 Harold Cunningham Getty Images

iPod Inventor and Nest Founder Tony Fadell Backs Advano Battery Startup

Jan. 28, 2020
Tony Fadell, co-inventor of the iPod, is investing in a company that says they can use silicon scrap to manufacture better batteries.

iPod co-inventor Tony Fadell is backing a battery company that says it’s found a way to store more energy using silicon scrap waste.

Fadell’s investment firm, Future Shape, is among the contributors to Advano’s $18.5 million Series A funding round. It’s Fadell’s first battery investment.

Silicon could be key to building more powerful batteries. The anodes of most existing systems are made with graphite. But silicon can hold far more lithium. The problem is silicon anodes tend to swell and crack. That’s set off a race among companies including Sila Nanotechnologies Inc. to figure out how to make them work better. Advano says it has a solution.

“Everyone wants at least some kind of silicon anode in the battery,” Fadell, who also helped invent the iPhone and was a co-founder of Nest Labs, said in an interview. “That’s the holy grail.”

Advano designed its silicon anode material to be incorporated into existing battery designs, said Alexander Girau, the company’s founder. Part of the New Orleans-based company’s strategy is using silicon scraps left over from semiconductor and solar manufacturing. That enables it to save money and sidestep silicon manufacturing.

The funding will help Advano develop a pilot manufacturing facility and expand its staff by 50%. It also announced a partnership with battery-material supplier Mitsui Kinzoku of Japan. Other investors in the round include Mitsui Kinzoku SBI Material Innovation Fund, Thiel Capital and Y Combinator.

By Brian Eckhouse

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