Coming into my internship, I had no idea what to expect. The little that I knew about Imprint Energy was that it was a “printed, flexible battery company”. But what exactly does that mean?
On my first day, I was welcomed by the Imprint Energy team – around 12 full-time employees and two interns from Singapore. Everyone came from different backgrounds, leading to a very diverse group of talented individuals working towards a common goal – developing next-generation battery technology.
Shortly afterwards I was given a tour of the space. Immediately to the left after entering was a small kitchen. There was a refrigerator for everyone to use, in addition to shelves and cabinets stocked full of snacks and drinks – Christine, the co-founder and CEO, is extremely generous! A little past the entrance to the kitchen were the two posters pictured above in addition to a small office known as the “Orange Room” for its vibrant wall color. I was told it’s an office that anyone can use when they need to get away from lab. Further down the hall was a conference room, another two offices, and a “testing room” for long term battery storage. I’ve since found myself in the room often, as much of the individual battery data collection happens there.
Imprint Energy is currently at a huge milestone in their company history – they soon will begin large scale manufacture of their batteries. Because of this, the most recent focus of the team is spec’ing out the product. In other words, they’re determining what kind of small variation within batteries coming off of the manufacturing line is allowed to still be considered “good”.
For the first two weeks, my focus was on data collection. I performed a lot of yield checks, which is a test that determines the open-circuit voltage of the battery in addition to its resistances. In other words, it characterizes much of the electrical properties of the battery in a single test. Back at UC Berkeley, I had used a similar device to collect data in the lab I’m a part of. Because of this, it wasn’t too difficult for me to pick up the new test. Darren, the mechanical engineer-turned-IT of the team, created a cool apparatus that made it possible to test up to 12 batteries at once, making high quantity testing incredibly easy. I also learned how to perform a full-battery check that cycles a battery repeatedly until it fails. This offers information regarding longevity in addition to some other electrical properties.
All the while, the battery scientists in the lab were busy at work printing. The process is incredibly cool, as the idea that a battery can be *printed* just seems mind blowing to me. Different inks are used at different points in the process. Initially, a specific electrochemical ink is loaded into a screen printer where the appropriate screen (think of it as a stencil) has already been installed. Next, a squeegee in the printer automatically presses the ink over the stencil, depositing it on the substrate waiting below. This process is repeated with the required inks, and, slowly but surely a battery is built up (a finished sheet is pictured below). I’m still amazed every time a batch is printed. I guess we really are in the future!
On a completely different note, I’m not used to a commute to get to work. This summer, I’m living at home in the East Bay and driving in to Alameda. I actually don’t mind the ~40 min drive that much. It gives me a chance to listen to lots of different types music. I invested in Spotify Premium, so I should have plenty of music to get me through the summer!