With Nanode’s New Battery Tech, Will Flying Cars Finally Begin Taking Flight?

Brian Worfolk is the Triangle-based COO of Nanode, which is developing next-generation batteries. He will be presenting at CED's Venture Connect summit on March 29-30 in RTP.

Flying cars.

The idea of speeding through clouds among other airborne automobiles—or whatever they might be called—has been dreamt of for decades, but with little progress in actually bringing aviation into the automotive industry. 

Now, with the new battery technology engineered by cleantech startup Nanode, the era of flying cars could well be much closer. There are also plenty of earthbound applications for the batteries.

Nanode is HQ’d in Edmonton, Canada, but COO Brian Worfolk—a PhD and postdoc in chemical engineering who is one of the driving forces behind Nanode’s tech—is based in the Triangle. He will pitch Nanode to investors at CED’s Venture Connect summit on March 29-30 in RTP.

The startup is developing a next-generation high-capacity tin anode for lithium and sodium-ion batteries that can double the amount of a battery’s functionality, and in turn, expand what a battery is capable of doing. 

“With our technology, you could really rethink how batteries are formed,” Worfolk said. “It’s going to open up and enable a whole new generation of battery technology.”

Many of Nanode’s current clients include aviation and drone manufacturers looking to improve their battery efficiency. That could make futuristic tech—like flying cars—closer to reality.

Nanode launched its first product in September of last year, and is working to sell the technology to battery manufacturers mainly located in Asia and North America. 

“We work with our customers, they test their samples, they give us some feedback, and we iterate to make better products for them,” he said. 

Every client has unique needs, so Nanode partners with its customers to fit its battery technology to their desired product.

Venture Connect will be held on March 29-30 in RTP

Worfolk’s interest in cleantech began when he started analyzing the world’s energy mix and exploring renewable energy while in graduate school. 

“I thought this is a really important societal problem to solve,” he said.

In his process of “digging deeper” into lower-emission technologies, he discovered how well battery technology pairs with electricity generation.

Worfolk spent 10 years in the cleantech industry developing solar and battery technologies. He specifically worked on engineering the materials utilized in Apple iPhone batteries before he launched his entrepreneurial journey with the creation of Nanode in November of 2022.

Currently, Nanode aims to raise a seed round and looking to attract more investors. Although Nanode’s technology is cutting-edge, he said that attracting funding has been challenging. 

Securing investments for cleantech can difficult because there is often a long runway to significant revenue, Worfolk said. Faster revenue from other tech startups such as SaaS companies can be more enticing to investors than the five years it might take for a cleantech company to generate meaningful revenue, he added.

“That’s always a challenge,” Worfolk said. “And it makes complete sense. But you need a bridge for these companies to really get past that point.”

He noted that he’ll be looking for grants and funding opportunities at the Venture Connect summit.

Along with more funding, Worfolk said he’d like to see stronger government support in bringing cleantech ideas to the market and more affordable lab space within the area.

“As more technologies and companies grow, the cleantech space is going to attract more investors in this area,” he said. “In 10 years, I’d really like to see the Triangle become a hotbed for cleantech.”

Worfolk said starting Nanode has come with many highs and lows, but he is motivated to expand clean technology. 

He said if he could give one piece of advice to his past self he would say, “be prepared, be patient, and get ready for a thrilling ride.”