Spotlight on Tsuyonobu Hatazawa
Tsuyonobu Hatazawa joined Nexeon as Chief Technology Officer in August 2013, following a long career in battery development including at Sony in Japan. He now divides his time between Nexeon’s Oxfordshire and Tokyo offices.
Here he reflects on his first few months in the job.
What are your first impressions of Nexeon after your first few months?
There any many excellent scientists and engineers working at Nexeon to optimise our state of the art silicon material technology, and with a view to achieving volume commercialisation as soon as possible. Nexeon is a company with a strong and broad capability. I see evidence of high performance from every point of view.
What makes Nexeon different to other businesses you have worked in?
Nexeon is different in that we are working on some of the really basic scientific issues with the potential to make a huge difference to all our lives. Rechargeable battery development is one of the major areas left that can make a big difference, from consumer electronics to renewable energy storage. We’re working on parts of the value chain from raw materials through to battery architecture, and building useful IP and know-how in the process.
What lessons had you learned from your previous experience that you were able to apply to this role?
It is really important to have an effective and open way to share information. Oftentimes, inconvenient data are not shared as quickly as good, and yet contain important information that can impact future direction. At Nexeon we have a very open culture of continuous learning in which information is shared among the team quickly. Large companies can sometimes lose their vector, and smaller ones are faster to react. I believe we are very fast to react and to take decisions; everyone has their clear responsibilities.
What are your intentions for the next stage of development, or the future direction of the technology?
Silicon used in battery anodes has great potential to achieve a high energy density but has issues with expansion and contraction. Nexeon materials are unique and have performance advantages to overcome these issues. Silicon is also quite reactive with the organic materials commonly found in electrolytes. Nexeon is working with its world-leading electrolyte partners and addressing this issue. Nexeon has surprisingly good collaborative relationships with cathode, binder and electrolyte companies. By optimising materials to work together we will achieve higher performance and accelerate commercialisation.
Do you have a personal vision for the technology or for Nexeon’s role in the industry?
I can see a range of materials and a roadmap to meet customer needs over the coming years. I envisage a similar evolution to that I experienced with carbon anode materials. It is exciting to have the opportunity to influence direction and be part of bringing silicon anodes to market. We have several options on material morphology and manufacturing processes and we have a strong IP portfolio. We plan to scale-up manufacturing ourselves with the help of our manufacturing partner Wacker Chemie.
How would you describe your strategy?
Our silicon technology features nano-sized pillar structures that are robust to the physical volume changes seen during charging and discharging batteries. Optimising silicon together with electrolytes and binders is a sound strategy. We are well on our way to addressing electrode expansion issues using our silicon materials, and improvements in electrolyte and binder stability will address lithium efficiency and enable new batteries with even longer charge-discharge cycle lifetimes.
How will you protect your proprietary materials from being copied?
In addition to the clear benefits of greater charge density leading to battery designs with longer time between charge and higher performance for their size, we should say that our IP covers a broad range of different structures and we continue to add to our IP patent portfolio. We therefore expect to be able to protect our commercial activities way into the future. With the range of materials we are developing we are working on tailoring our materials for specific applications such as smartphones, tablets or automotive battery packs.
What do you feel you have brought to technology development at Nexeon?
Our well-thought out IP and technical strategy and our highly talented scientists and engineers are wonderful assets, and I am enjoying the process of bringing my industrial battery development experience to help guide Nexeon on the path to greater success.