Riverside’s SiLi-ion Roars into the Future with Lithium Battery Innovation

Published: 04/19/2022

SiLi-ion Chairman and Founder Lorenzo Mangolini

SiLi-ion Chairman and Founder Lorenzo Mangolini, Ph.D., and CEO Mark Hatch in the Mangolini Lab at the University of California, Riverside. Courtesy SiLi-ion

It’s the bottom of the ninth in the World Series and the bases are loaded. That’s how SiLi-ion’s Green-Beret-turned-CEO Mark Hatch describes this stage of the game for the Riverside-based clean energy startup.

“We are not bunting,” Hatch said. “We are swinging for the fences.”

SiLi-ion, founded in 2018 by renowned University of California, Riverside, professor Lorenzo Mangolini from Italy, produces a novel silicon-carbon “drop-in” additive to improve lithium-ion battery storage capacity and lifespan.

“Silicon is the next most likely candidate for lithium-ion batteries,” said Mangolini. “It has the potential to fundamentally change the world.”

The patent-pending technology uses silicon nanoparticles encased in a high-quality graphite layer. The technique, formed as a powder, is based on plentiful and sustainable minerals silicon and carbon primed to solve a very large problem.

“Electric aircraft cannot really fly and we will not reach electric vehicle targets by 2030 without a major breakthrough in lithium-ion batteries,” said Hatch. “We cannot leverage all of our investments in sustainable energy creation such as wind and solar without the batteries to store it.”

SiLi-ion’s technology is one of only six fundamentally unique approaches to next-generation battery technologies globally. What sets SiLi-ion apart from its competition is simple: sustainable materials and ease of integration that eliminates the need for extensive capital investments for battery manufacturers.

Hatch also points to the benefits of being headquartered at a university with R1 status ​— the top-ranking Carnegie Classification awarded to institutions with cutting-edge research activity.

“We’re proud to be part of a jobs and economic driver for growth and diversity in the region,” said Hatch.

After months of pitch contests and an instructional program, SiLi-ion reached a new milestone in January as one of two startups from the Inland Empire to win the first-ever Riverside Angel Summit. The summit brought together local investors and startups to boost the region’s entrepreneurship culture and promote angel investing.

“This vote of confidence from the angel investment community is the first private funding we’ve received to support the technology and accelerate the pace with which we can progress,” Hatch said.

Building on this momentum, Hatch is leading fundraising for a $400,000 seed round to match the grant money currently available to the startup. SiLi-ion’s commercialization effort originally got off the ground through $1.3 million in grants from the California Energy Commission and National Science Foundation.

“Riverside is the perfect location for us to put down roots because it’s a transportation hub for Southern California, if not the entire state,” said Hatch.

There is no limit to the vast local and regional impact a startup like SiLi-ion can have in Riverside.

City of Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson aggrees. “SiLi-ion is not only innovating technology that drives sustainable growth, but they are also innovating the startup culture in Riverside through space, money, mentorship, and community.” 

The small, but mighty team of two should know within the year if SiLi-ion’s technology is scalable and Hatch is optimistic.

“We’ve got as much of a chance at hitting a grand slam as anyone else does,” said Hatch.

For information about SiLi-ion, go to www.siliion.com.