WASHINGTON – U.S. Army xTech Program winners are awarded for their unique science and technology innovations. Some are even awarded twice.
Storagenergy Technologies, a small business from Salt Lake City, Utah, is not only unique for their cutting-edge battery power solutions but is also one of the only xTech competitors to be named a winner in two competitions: the Innovation Combine Advanced Energy Storage Challenge in July 2021 and xTechSearch 6 in May 2022.
Specializing in advanced materials and electrochemical devices, the business entered the Innovation Combine with a proposal for their conformal semi-solid zinc-air battery, showcasing how this could replace traditional lithium-ion and alkaline batteries as the source for next-generation Soldier power. The SS-ZAB replaces flammable and volatile liquid electrolytes, mitigating both safety hazards and electrolyte evaporation issues common to existing battery systems. In addition to safety benefits for Soldiers, Storagenergy’s battery is less expensive, has high energy density to support long missions without adding extra weight, and can be used for a multitude of applications, including small drones, vehicles, various electronics and more.
Storagenergy walked away from the Innovation Combine as the winner in the safe, printable, conformal battery technology area, earning $30,000 in cash prizes and the opportunity to submit a prototype project proposal with the Defense Automotive Technologies Consortium and Army Contracting Command.
Feng Zhao, Storagenergy CEO, shared that the competition also provided invaluable experience from a business development standpoint.
“xTech is very different from other programs because there is so much involvement from the Army during technology pitches,” Zhao said. “We didn’t have a lot of experience on how to present our technology in front of so many technical Army experts, but we learned from their feedback on how to improve the pitch and organize the presentation to demonstrate value to the Soldier.”
The feedback from Army experts pushed Storagenergy from one win in the Innovation Combine to achieve another first-place award in xTechSearch 6. The small business leveraged their previous experience with lithium-metal batteries, which gave xTech a fresh product to assess for Army value. Their proposal for their second run with xTech detailed the high-energy ‘anode-less’ LMB for unmanned ground vehicles and beyond, which serves a similar purpose as the SS-ZAB but with different chemistry and slightly higher technical maturity.
The upgraded battery doubles the operation time of existing fielded systems, such as the Dragon Runner 10, which is a lightweight, compact and remote platform used for supporting dismounted Soldier operations. Storagenergy was named as one of the 10 winners in xTechSearch 6, receiving $45,000 in cash prizes plus the opportunity to submit a proposal for a Small Business Innovation Research contract award of $250,000.
Two xTech wins has put the business on the map as an Army innovator; Storagenergy is using both the guidance of the program and the substantial rewards to continue maturing their technologies for an Army transition in the coming years.
“We learned a lot about the structure of the Army, and we were introduced to a lot of scientists and stakeholders who will be using our technology,” Zhao said. “The funding and SBIR component has also helped mature our battery for a future technology transition.”
Established in 2018, the Army xTech Program strives to integrate small businesses and non-traditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army. Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DOD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship, and other support infrastructure as they progress through the competition to determine how best to align their technology solutions with real users and buyers within the Army.
The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to https://www.xtechsearch.army.mil/.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world's finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs.