A Novel Way to Advance a Better Battery Design

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At MIT, Where “Data Gets to Speak”

Lampe-Onnerud and her husband, Per Onnerud, who serves as Cadenza’s chief technology officer, held postdoctoral appointments at MIT after earning their PhDs at Uppsala University in their home country of Sweden. Lampe-Onnerud did lab work in inorganic chemistry in close collaboration with MIT materials science and mathematics professors, while Onnerud did research in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The experience left a strong impression on Lampe-Onnerud.

“MIT was a very formative experience,” she says. “You learn how to argue a point so that the data gets to speak. You just enable the data; there’s no spin. MIT has a special place in my heart.”

Lampe-Onnerud has maintained a strong connection with the Institute ever since, participating in alumni groups, giving guest lectures on campus, and serving as a member of the MIT Corporation visiting committee for the chemistry department — all while finding remarkable success in her career.

Lampe-Onnerud founded Boston-Power in 2004, which she grew into an internationally recognized manufacturer of batteries for consumer electronics, vehicles, and industrial applications while serving as the CEO until the company moved operations to China in 2012. In the early stages of the company, more than seven years after Lampe-Onnerud had finished her postdoc work, she discovered the enduring nature of support from the MIT community.

“We started looking for some angel investors, and one of the first groups that responded were the angels affiliated with MIT,” Lampe-Onnerud says. “We support each other because we tend to be attracted to intractable problems. It’s very much in the MIT spirit: We know, if we’re trying to solve big problems, it’s going to be difficult. So we like to collaborate.”

The high-profile experience at Boston Power earned her distinctions including the Technology Pioneer Award from the World Economic Forum, and Swedish Woman of the Year from the Swedish Women’s Educational Association. It also led some to deem her the “Queen of Batteries.”

Immediately after leaving Boston-Power, Lampe-Onnerud and her husband went to work on what would be Cadenza’s supercell architecture in their garage. They wanted to create a solution that would help lower the world’s carbon footprint, but they estimated that, at most, they’d be able to build one gigafactory every 18 months if they were to manufacture the batteries themselves. So they decided to license the technology instead.

The strategy has tradeoffs from a business perspective: Cadenza has needed to raise much less capital than Boston-Power but will allow licensees to generate topline and bottomline growth while it receives a percentage of sales. Lampe-Onnerud is clearly happy to leverage her global network and share the upside to maximize Cadenza’s impact.

“My hope is that we are able to bring people together around this technology to do things that are really important, like taking down our carbon footprint, eliminating NOx [nitrogen oxide] emissions, or improving grid efficiency,” Lampe-Onnerud says. “It’s a different way to work together, so when an element of this ecosystem wins, we all win. It has been an inspiring process.”


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