"Our high surface area, low oxygen, nanoscale titanium diboride is unique and has potential for use in a range of applications," said Douglas DuFaux, AP Materials' vice-president of operations. "Advanced primary batteries is an excellent first application."

AP Materials will supply Millennium Cell with very-low-oxygen-content nanoscale titanium diboride powder under a US Department of Defense Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract. Millennium Cell will use the nanopowder as the anode of its next-generation air batteries, in which air reacts with material to generate electronic energy. The titanium diboride undergoes oxidation to titanium dioxide and boron oxide, a reaction which liberates electrons.

Having the titanium diboride in nanopowder form means that a greater surface area is available for the oxidation reaction, and more of the material reacts. The diboride nanopowder's low oxygen content also improves the efficiency of the battery.

Air batteries can yield high energy densities and should be able to offer either an extended battery life or a reduced package size. They are also relatively environmentally-friendly.

Based in St Louis, Missouri, AP Materials produces a range of metal, ceramic and composite nanopowders. The company also recently won Phase 1 SBIR funding from the US Missile Defense Agency to develop nanoscale aluminium powders for use in advanced propulsion systems and nanoscale tantalum powders for advanced electronic capacitors.