Octet Scientific is Developing Chemicals to Optimize Zinc-Based Batteries

How the Cleveland startup is revolutionizing energy storage for rechargeability

Octet Scientific logo over photo of solar panels and wind turbines in a field

Many people depend on batteries to power their everyday technology, from cameras to remote controls and other household items. As energy resources expand and more emphasis is placed on sustainability, rechargeability and materials have also become increasingly important. Cleveland startup Octet Scientific has honed in on the development of rechargeable batteries and the materials they’re made of, with a specific focus on zinc.

“We are developing chemicals to make zinc-based batteries perform better and become more competitive in energy storage applications,” CEO and founder Onas Bolton said. “Batteries are already an enormous part of our lives and an enormous market, but they’re going to get even more important and critical to everything we do. Zinc is renewable, sustainable, widely sourced, and safe. It’s been used in batteries for a long time, but it’s really struggled with rechargeability.”

Bolton’s background in electrochemical molecular design led him to explore how additives in zinc batteries, the chemicals that help them hold power longer and operate more efficiently, can be optimized for even better performance. The startup’s OctoLyte additives help zinc batteries to recharge in a stable way without degrading, which broadens their capabilities.

“By adding our chemistry to these batteries, they become much more high performance and more competitive in applications where they could someday vie with lithium or even replace lead acid,” Bolton said. “We’re establishing zinc as the next big competitor in a variety of battery markets by bringing in the right kind of chemicals that supercharge how they perform.”

Although the startup wants to increase the competitiveness of zinc batteries, Bolton’s goal is not to replace lithium as a material, but to demonstrate zinc as an efficient, sustainable, and safe alternative in grid applications and other areas of battery storage and renewable energy.

“Lithium batteries are going to help save the world by replacing combustion engines in the cars and trucks we drive, but on the grid or in a backup battery or data center, lithium doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “We’re working to make sure our grid is safe and secure on a more robust, sustainable technology like zinc. It’s safe, reliable, cost-effective, and a disciplined, smart choice for our energy future.”

The startup’s vision and technology is garnering attention from the energy industry in Ohio and across the country. For its work on grid storage, Octet was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research program. In the Cleveland area, Bolton highlighted Ohio Third Frontier-supported organizations GLIDEJumpStart, and MAGNET, as well as economic development nonprofit BRITE, for their critical support through funding and manufacturing resources.

“At the heart of it, we’re working on building a chemical manufacturing company, and Ohio’s a great place to do that because of the legacy in that area. All the services and resources here have been really helpful, and there’s an openness to embrace a hard-tech manufacturing company. We needed to build chemicals in a lab and buy things like solvents and glassware, so we needed funding from investors with the right mindset who understood our timelines, and we’ve been able to find that in this region.”

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