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Local company leads the charge

Business moves to aerospace and defense, after winning contracts to produce batteries for satellites

Posted: October 6, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 6, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Quallion LLC lab employees work in the dry room to avoid contamination recently. The green-lit containment chamber, which is filled with a nitrogen/argon atmosphere, reduces exposure to contaminants from unfinished products.

 

Quallion LLC is expanding use of its lithium-ion batteries from biomedical applications to aerospace and defense.

After years of looking for a reliable power source, entrepreneur Alfred E. Mann co-founded Quallion with Dr. Hisashi Tsukamoto to develop a rechargeable lithium battery for medical devices in the biomedical industry.

Naming the company Quallion, after “quality lithium ion,” Mann and Tsukamoto founded the lithium-ion battery company in Sylmar in 1998 to meet the need of producing long-life power sources that could be implanted into patients.

The company’s innovations have since allowed Quallion to expand into military contracts, prompting the company’s move into Valencia’s Mann Biomedical Park in February 2012 to meet the demand for increased work space. A sign will be posted on its new building within the next month.

“We needed more space and a proper facility to accommodate machinery we’ll be buying,” said Amanda Reyes, marketing and public relations coordinator.

Marking a milestone for the company, one of Quallion’s lithium-ion batteries was launched into orbit Sept. 27 by the U.S. Department of Navy.  It was the company’s first battery to go into orbit.

Winning a government-defense contract, Quallion is producing the raw materials to make the batteries that power satellites. The raw materials are purchased overseas and produced domestically by the company.

The United States government needed a trusted domestic material and cell source for the lithium-ion batteries for aerospace use, said Vincent Visco, vice president of aerospace and military power.

“We are pleased to be the only company in the United States chosen to have the ability to supply these materials,” Visco said.

“We look forward to the establishment of the material lines, as well as supporting military business in California,” he said.
Fueling tactical satellites, Quallion’s batteries enable “war fighters” to use a regular handheld radio for mobile communications without having to stop and set up an antenna in the field.

One big reason Quallion secured the contract, Reyes said, is its trademarked zero-volt battery, allowing a user to de-charge all the energy in the battery down to zero volts.

The battery can then sit on a counter for years until it’s needed again. It can be recharged fully without the energy resource having been depleted.

“The Navy wanted to be able to deploy their satellite quicker,” Reyes said. “They wanted to be able to just pull the batteries off the shelf and use them immediately without having to order new batteries.”

Quallion’s products have quite a few military applications, she said.

Employing 179 people currently, the defense contract will create 15 to 20 new positions.

Quallion is also hoping to secure an F-35 military platform contract for the newer generation stealth Lockheed Martin jet fighters. A contract would mean hiring an additional 150 to 300 employees, Reyes said.

Moving into a larger operations space will allow Quallion to continue designing and manufacturing lithium-ion batteries and cells, and expand production, Reyes said.

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