Wired In: Hailong Ning

Wired In: Hailong Ning

Each week, Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet HAILONG NING, a University of Illinois alumnus and director of research and development at Xerion Advanced Battery Corp., which has grown from its origins at the UI.

What's the latest at Xerion?

Xerion finished building its pilot plant in Dayton, Ohio, last November and has moved most of employees to the new facility. The new facility has 20,000 square feet, which allows us to quickly expand our pilot scale research and development activities. This facility can be further expanded for future manufacturing.

Are you still in Champaign, too?

Xerion still has a division at Research Park to work on a few new battery designs. The goal is to continue to work closely with University of Illinois

How many people are on the team?

We currently have about 20 people. We hired a few very intelligent battery researchers from top battery research groups in the U.S.

What does your product do that nobody else can do?

We have developed a new battery fabrication method, which is faster and more cost effective. Our battery has much better energy and power trade-off than conventional batteries. For example, Xerion's battery can deliver at least 30 percent more energy density at a given power.

Are you still using the nanostructured 'pore' architecture on the batteries?

Yes. Generally, a battery is composed of a positive and a negative electrode. When we started, we were designing the porous structures for positive electrodes. In the past few years, we invented a new method to make the positive electrode, which we believe can offer much better performance than the porous electrode. We also found the porous electrode design is much more beneficial when applied to the negative electrode. We are currently using nanostructured pores in our high energy negative electrode.

What interests you the most right now?

We are currently in the transition between lab scale and pilot scale. We have obtained great results from our lab scale prototypes. It will be very interesting to see the performance as we scale up. We expect further performance improvement in the larger scale because of the process and quality controls.

How did you become part of the team? Did you also work with Professor Paul Braun in his University of Illinois lab, whose group originated many of these concepts?

Paul was my Ph.D. advisor. I joined Xerion after I graduated in 2013.

Why did you choose Xerion?

Xerion has been a very exciting place for me. The technology we are working on is top notch. We work at a much faster pace than big companies and university labs. I have learned so much since I worked here. Lots of good ideas are being created everyday at Xerion. Because we are a young company, everyone has to multi-task and lead. It is also a great place to develop leadership and management skills.

What's your best advice for someone who's starting up?

Sometimes, having the right people with right skill sets is more important than having the right technology. Even if the technology doesn't work as initially planed, you will be able to pivot to a better one with the right people.

What's in the future for your company?

Xerion has developed a few novel battery designs to make batteries for consumer electronics and automotive industries. Xerion is planning to manufacture in 2019.

Do you have any patents?

Yes. We have three patents granted and multiple pending.

TECH TIDBITS ... from HAILONG NING

Do you have a favorite thing to follow on social media, or an app you really love? I tried, but I don't follow social media. I read news and keep track on stock markets online during my free time.

Do you have any wearable electronics? No.

Do you have an entrepreneur that you admire? There are many people I admire: Tesla founder Elon Musk, and Yun Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group.