Here's everything we know about Sakti3 - the US startup Dyson just invested $15m in

 
Emma Haslett
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Sakti3 is the first investment Sir James Dyson has made outside his own business (Source: Dyson)

Some 15 years into the entrepreneur game, Sir James Dyson has made his first-ever investment outside his own business, after he ploughed $15m (£10m) in US startup Sakti3.

The company, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, develops solid-state batteries. The investment was part of a wider, $20m funding round.

Dyson said the company will help it to "propel [our] ambitious plans - 100 new machines in four new portfolios of technology over the next four years". But what is Sakti, and how will it help Dyson? Here's everything we know about it.

It was founded by a former engineering professor

University of Michigan engineering professor Ann Marie Sastry started the company in 2006 - she has been the co-author of more than 80 scientific papers and has been awarded or filed 70 patents.

Last year Sastry told Fortune that, frustrated with the limitations of the now-ubiquitous lithium-ion battery (size, weight, charge time, capacity, degradation - basically everything that irritates you about your mobile phone), she "threw away the script and instead of making traditional chemical lithium batteries, decided to make them the same way you make computer chips".

Solid state batteries are the future

From laptops to smartphones, cameras and even cars, lithium-ion batteries are powering more and more electronic products. But one of their major drawbacks is that they're highly flammable - indeed, one of the theories floated about the disappearance of flight MH370 was that a consignment of batteries had caught fire. Sakti's batteries use solid lithium electrodes rather than the flammable liquid, which not only makes them less dangerous, but also means they are more powerful because they can pack in more energy.

Electric cars are one area where the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries is becoming an increasingly important issue. Just last night, Tesla founder Elon Musk vowed to "end range anxiety" - where electric car drivers worry about how far they can stray before their car runs out of battery - with his new Model S.

Dyson isn't the only big-name investor

During previous funding rounds, the company has raised a total of $30m, from companies including General Motors, Jawbone backer Khosla Ventures, Maplin investor Beringea and Japanese giant Itochu.

It's not just cash Dyson is providing

Dyson is clearly a hands-on investor: part of the agreement with Sakti is to help it "commercialise" its batteries - ie. Dyson will use the company's technology in its gadgets from now on. He's already committed to using them in his cordless vacuums.

As Dyson himself put it: “Sakti3 has achieved leaps in performance which current battery technology simply can’t. It’s these fundamental technologies – batteries, motors – that allow machines to work properly. The Sakti3 team has amazing ambitions, and their platform offers the potential for exponential performance gains that will supercharge the Dyson machines we know today.”

It's worth pointing out that General Motors has made a similar commitment to the company, too.

It's been named one of MIT's most disruptive companies

In 2012 Sakti was ranked alongside Apple, Arm, Dropbox, SpaceX and Spotify as one of the MIT Technology Review's 50 most disruptive companies.

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