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Altair Nanotechnologies Outlines Battery Electrode Materials Program

RENO, NV -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 04/04/2005 -- Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALTI), a developer and manufacturer of innovative advanced ceramic nanomaterial products, today released a Program Profile to provide more details on its Battery Electrode Materials Program.

The Battery Market

The rechargeable battery market has four major battery types:

Lead Acid
$30 billion a year market.
Used in motive power applications like automobiles, trucks, golf carts, etc.

Lithium Ion (Li Ion)
$5 billion a year market.
Principally used in portable devices like cell phones and PCs
.
Nickel Cadmium (NiCd)
$1 billion a year market
Used in power tools and smaller specialty markets

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)
$1 billion a year market
Deployed principally in power tools, cordless phones and smaller
specialty markets



Li Ion, NiCd and NiMH batteries have been primarily manufactured in Japan. However over the last three years a significant shift has occurred with China now manufacturing 30 percent of the worldwide supply. This market share is expected to continue to rapidly rise over the next few years. It is also anticipated that U.S. and European manufacturers will take a renewed interest in this market sector.
Li Ion batteries have inherent limitations in their design, which if solved, would allow Li Ion battery manufacturers to extend their reach into the power tools market and into motive power application such as electric powered vehicles:

-- Long charge times, typically measured in hours - two to four hour charge
times are typical.

-- Slow discharge rates that prevent them addressing high powered
applications which require large bursts of power.

-- Low cycle life (the number of times you can charge/discharge the
battery) limiting their life and therefore their price/performance. Typical
cycle life is today about 500 to 1000 charge/discharge cycles.

-- Explosive potential which prevents their use in large configurations.
This is due to the voltage levels they operate at and the potential for
creating a chemically explosive reaction from the liberated lithium.

Altair established a research and development program in 2000 to address these limitations.


Altair Battery Electrode Materials Development Program

As early as 1999 it was postulated by an Altair scientist that by applying nanotechnology to battery electrode material design a significant improvement could be achieved in a Li Ion battery's performance characteristics. With this hypothesis Altair began its development of Altairnano Lithium Titanate Spinel, a nanomaterial designed to accept rapid electrical charges and discharges, in early 2000. Since then Altair has executed 26 confidentiality agreements regarding this material.

Altair, working with the J. Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry in Prague and the Ecole Polytechnique Federal Lausanne, Switzerland demonstrated that the rate at which nano-sized lithium titanate spinel can be charged is a function of particle size when there is unlimited lithium ion availability at the particle surface (ion connectivity) and unlimited electron transport from the surface (electron connectivity). Altair reported these results in 2001, and a version of this report was subsequently published in the July 2003 edition of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

As a result of further research and development Altair filed two patents covering fundamental work in anode and cathode electrode material design and manufacture. These patents were recently granted by the US Patent Office and were announced in press releases dated January 7, 2005 ("Process For Making Lithium Titanate") and January 14, 2005 ("Process For Making Nano-sized and Sub-micron-sized Lithium-Transition Metal Oxides").

As part of Altair's development of the electrode materials it has produced several batches of the lithium titanate spinel electrode material. This material was used to construct several prototype batteries by Rutgers University Energy Research Group. They then conducted testing of these prototype batteries. The results of these tests have indicated that batteries constructed using Altair's nano-lithium titanate electrode materials could have the following characteristics:

-- Very fast charge rates - currently measured at six minutes to a full
charge. In the power tools market this is a major breakthrough compared to
the current two to four hours. And in the electric vehicle (EV) market this
would allow a recharge in the same amount of time as it currently takes to
fill a car with gasoline. Rapid charge rates would provide a significant
performance improvement for current EV designs, which presently take
several hours to charge and make them only practical for short haul trips.

-- Fast discharge potential - required when high amounts of power are
needed by power tools and electric or hybrid vehicles. An Altair scientist
commented that an EV powered by batteries using Altair's electrode
materials would have a 0-60mph speed that would leave other EVs in the
dust!!

-- Extremely long cycle life - Reported by Rutgers at 9,000 cycles and
estimated at 20,000 plus charge/discharge cycles. This compares with less
than 1,000 for all other types of rechargeable batteries. Using Altair's
electrode materials, this would allow lifetime rechargeable batteries. In
power tool applications, as well as providing a cost benefit, it also has a
substantial environmental impact because it would significantly reduce the
toxic hazards from discarded batteries. In EVs, it significantly improves
the cost of ownership because the batteries would not need to be replaced
during the typical life of the vehicle and in fact could be transferred to
a replacement vehicle.

-- Safe design - Because of the electrical characteristics of the Altair
electrode materials they are operating at a level that avoids the explosive
potential inherent with current Li Ion batteries.

This will enable large configuration batteries to be constructed required in EVs or telecom switching centers. As well as solving a major safety problem, it also will reduce the cost of battery manufacture because the safety mechanisms included in current Li Ion batteries to mitigate explosions will likely be minimized.
The Competitive Environment

Altair's research and development in electrode materials is addressing fundamental requirements of the rechargeable battery market -- fast charge times, long cycle life, high power output and safe designs. Needless to say other companies are also working in these areas as well, however Altair is well positioned with its current patent portfolio and collaborations with other interested parties.

A recent announcement by a battery development organization has endorsed the direction Altair is taking and validated that there is a need in the market for fast charge Li Ion based batteries. Competitive pressures in the battery market will dictate that there will not be one sole worldwide supplier.

Market Development for Altair's Electrode Materials

Altair develops and manufactures electrode materials. These materials need to be incorporated, by an established battery designer and manufacturer, into a new generation of battery. This process requires Altair working closely with battery manufacturers during their development and manufacturing introduction of the new battery. And therefore, the market availability of batteries based on Altair's electrode materials will be determined by the pace of the battery manufacturers.

Since completing the most recent phase of the Electrode Materials Development program Altair has embarked on establishing commercial collaborations with battery manufacturers and battery materials suppliers around the world. The level of interest in Altair's developments has been strong in all battery sectors and all geographies.

Like all mature industries, the battery supply market is characterized by large and small manufacturers in all geographies -- the Americas, Europe and the Far East. The market has new innovative suppliers who have specialized in certain segments of the market, who are eager to move rapidly and are keen to generate market awareness for their developments early on. Contrast that with established large multi-nationals who have much to gain/loose with new developments and therefore will approach the market more cautiously and deliberately, often keeping new developments under wraps until they are ready for market. Altair is in discussions or working with all types of battery suppliers around the world.

Altair's approach to market is to work with identified battery manufacturers and materials suppliers ranging from targeted battery solution vendors who see a very specific application for an Altair powered battery, to broad based suppliers wishing to build general market batteries using Altair materials. In addition to worldwide licensing agreements Altair is pursuing specific sector opportunities including vertical application markets such as power tools and electric powered vehicles, as well as targeted geographic markets like China and India where the market and manufacturing conditions are different to the more homogenous western geographies.

ALTAIR NANOTECHNOLOGIES INC.

Altair Nanotechnologies, through product innovation, is a leading supplier of advanced ceramic nanomaterial technology worldwide. Altair Nanotechnologies has assembled a unique team of material scientists who, coupled with collaborative ventures with industry partners and leading academic centers, has pioneered an impressive array of intellectual property and product achievements.

Altair Nanotechnologies has developed robust proprietary technology platforms for manufacturing a variety of crystalline and non-crystalline nanomaterials of unique structure, performance, quality and cost. The company has a scalable manufacturing capability to meet emerging nanomaterials demands, with capacity today to produce hundreds of tons of nanomaterials.

The company is organized into two divisions: Life Sciences and Performance Materials. The Life Sciences Division is pursuing market applications in pharmaceuticals, drug delivery, dental materials, cosmetics and other medical markets. The Performance Materials Division is pursuing market applications in Advanced Materials for paints and coatings; titanium metal manufacturing, catalysts and water treatment; and alternative energy. For additional information on Altair and its nanomaterials, visit www.altairnano.com.

Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc.®, Altair Nanomaterials™, Altairnano™, TiNano®, RenaZorb™, NanoCheck™, TiNano Spheres™ and the Hydrochloride Pigment Process™ are trademarks or registered trademarks of Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc.

For Additional Information:
Marty Tullio or Mark Tullio
McCloud Communications, LLC
949.553.9748
marty@mccloudcommunications.com
mark@mccloudcommunications.com


SOURCE: Altair Nanotechnologies

 

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This story has been adapted from a news release -
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