America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge
Help Choose America’s Next Top Energy Innovator
Who Will Be America’s Next Top Energy Innovator?
Below is the innovative companies participating in the challenge:
Element One, Inc.
Element One’s detection products will change the paradigm in the way hydrogen and other hazardous gas leaks are detected, achieving a new level of safety in existing industrial and emerging consumer environments. Element One has patented the only available coatings for the detection of hydrogen that change color reversibly or non-reversibly as desired to give both current and historical information about leaked hydrogen. In 2011, Element One optioned to license three National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) patents that complement its own technologies.
Completed and proposed testing of our indicators for different applications include: large plastics manufacturing plant has completed tests, and discussions for licensing our product for use in safety shields for hydrogen fittings and valves is underway; testing programs in several oil refineries, the largest consumers of hydrogen, are being planned; an Israeli company used our products to test for degradation in zinc-air batteries for the U.S. Army; and, a proposed Canadian project to investigate the safety of hydrogen equipment in mines will incorporate our indicators into their tests.
Interest in the technology has also come from unexpected sources. Our technology is licensed for incorporation into a diagnostic test kit for a common sexually transmitted disease identified as a precursor to HIV. If the protozoan parasites that cause the STD are present, the indicator changes color when it reacts with the hydrogen produced as a metabolic byproduct during their growth in a culture medium.
Recent research has found that ingested hydrogen has unique and therapeutic benefits, and a medical research team is intending to dissolve hydrogen in a beverage. Our indicator is being tested for possible incorporation into the packaging to provide assurance to the consumer that hydrogen is still present.
Element One is working in collaboration with NREL to accelerate development of new devices to alleviate concerns about hydrogen safety in consumer environments with the introduction of hydrogen cars. The transition to hydrogen as a fuel would quadruple the size of the market for our products.
Element One was formed by veterans of NREL in Boulder, Colorado in 2005.
Our patented visual hydrogen gas indicators use either thin films or nano-particles of a transition metal oxide with a very thin, discontinuous coating of a catalyst to catalyze its reaction with hydrogen. Element One’s indicating thin films and coatings can be applied to a variety of materials for a variety of applications, making for a whole suite of potential products. Thin films may be applied to stretch films or shrink wrap to cover or encapsulate tanks, equipment, fittings and valves. Nano-particles can be used as pigments in indicating paints and printing inks, and may be applied with a brush, spray can, paint or marking pen, or applied to decals or tape. Either thin films or paints can be used in a network of our RFID sensors, providing a low cost, effective system to continuously monitor for leaks. When used to supplement electronic sensors, these new products can dramatically provide new levels of safety and economy in industrial operations that use hydrogen.
Impact on the Country and /or the Economy
Hydrogen is widely used in industry, and there are strong financial incentives to monitor hydrogen leaks. Hydrogen is expensive; leaked hydrogen is equivalent to lost profits. In the worst-case scenario, industrial gas leaks can cause loss of human life and large-scale financial loss. Companies must meet greenhouse-gas emission regulations and workplace safety and OSHA standards. The costs in labor and system downtime caused by leak testing can be significant. One oil industry representative indicated that RFID sensors could save his company more than $50 million per year.
7AC Technologies, Inc.
Air conditioning is a very large contributor to U.S. and world energy consumption. Heating and cooling costs for commercial and industrial buildings exceed 25 percent of U.S. primary energy consumption (cooling alone accounts for 4.5 Quads out of 40 Quads) and typically accounts for almost half of a building’s operating costs. Air conditioning is also a significant cause of grid instability with cycling compressor motors turning on and off, and causing load issues on hot summer days. Conventional air conditioners improve efficiency only marginally every year and retrofitting older rooftop units does not result in significant energy savings.
Conventional AC units use a lot of power for dehumidification rather than sensible cooling. 7AC’s Liquid Desiccant Air Conditioner (LDAC) systems lower the operating costs of commercial buildings for heating and cooling by 50 to 75 percent by using a strong saline solution (a desiccant) for moisture removal. A waste heat source can then be used to re-concentrate the desiccant. The LDAC unit seamlessly replaces existing rooftop HVAC systems and has less than a 1 year payback period when powered with natural gas or with a small conventional chiller. When waste heat is used (e.g. from Solar Thermal, Industrial processes or the rear of PV modules), heating and cooling costs reduce to essentially zero with a payback period of much less than one year, excluding the cost of the thermal delivery system.
The initial costs for the 7AC LDAC are very similar to a conventional HVAC system. Replacing an HVAC unit happens every 15 years on average and first costs are very important in the decision process. The 7AC LDAC has however a much lower energy consumption and since an HVAC unit’s annual energy costs are almost the same as the cost of a new unit, the payback period of the LDAC system is usually measured in months. This will help building owners to pro-actively replace their older HVAC units, rather than waiting for them to fail. It also enables Energy Service’s Companies (ESCOs) to carry LDAC products as part of an energy retrofit.
The 7AC liquid desiccant technology works by simultaneously dehumidifying and cooling incoming air. In a conventional HVC system, air is cooled to the saturation point and overcooled so that the moisture is removed to the desired humidity level. The air is then often reheated so that it enters the space at a comfortable temperature. Liquid desiccant systems have been installed for many years, but suffer from two disadvantages: they heat the air as it is being dried since it is usually an adiabatic process, and they have risk of desiccant getting airborne and transported into the building, which can lead to corrosion issues. The 7AC membrane plates simultaneously cool and dry the air and the membrane (licensed from NREL) prevents any of the desiccant from becoming airborne. Simultaneous cooling and dehumidification is a significantly more efficient process. This approach saves between 50 and 75 percent of energy as compared to a conventional HVAC.
7AC’s 10-ton LDAC removes the annual Green House Gas (GHG) equivalent to that of 2 cars, and double that if supplemented with a waste heat system. If 10% of the global market used LDAC technology, this would remove 22 million metric tons of GHG or 3.7 million cars annually.
Borla Performance Industries, Inc.
Borla Performance Industries is a 35-year technology leader, manufacturer and marketer of exhaust for the automotive industry, delivering innovative, patented exhaust systems that enhance the performance of internal combustion engines.
Borla has an option to license a novel, nano-pore membrane technology from OakRidge National Laboratory. Combining this innovation with Borla’s diesel exhaust technology will lead to a low cost, unique exhaust system that will double as a neutral energy device to recover and reclaim potable water from diesel and other internal combustion exhaust.
Using capillary condensation — which contrasts to thermodynamic condensation that cools the air to produce water – Oak Ridge engineers have developed a material of tiny capillaries in porous, tubular inorganic membranes whereby water condenses by capillary action in the pores.
This water is constantly drawn off from the outside of the tube, allowing more water to be condensed from the exhaust passing through the center of the tube at a given temperature.
In addition, capturing water vapor via this continual displacement method leads to an approximate 100-fold reduction in contaminants. As a result, the contact time between water-soluble gases such as nitrogen dioxide and the condensed water is eliminated.
Borla’s approach is unique in that we perform the water conversion process through the exhaust system. This concept creates potable water sources where no water is available, which is a common danger in many parts of the world.
Borla’s muffler/membrane reclamation unit installed on troop vehicles as part of the exhaust system will generate water at the point of use. It will supply a steady stream of water to slake thirst, prepare meals and maintain healthy hygiene — up to nearly 7 gallons a day per person — reducing vulnerability to military personnel while maximizing the tactical use of field troops.
This revolutionary technology is powered by the fuel that the military already burns to run its tanks, Humvees, generators and other field operation machines. For example, a Humvee, which has about a 25-gallon fuel tank, could provide enough water for roughly three soldiers per tank of fuel burned.
Besides reclaiming drinkable water from fuel to hydrate combat troops, the military could also benefit from Borla’s device for any power plant platform. Borla will use its advanced marketing capabilities to commercialize the device to a wide scope of potential military and commercial target markets including transport and stationary power plants such as generators, water pumps as well as marine, cars and trucks.
Borla’s greatest asset is our ability to produce as well as commercialize this device. Borla’s advanced marketing capabilities complete the triangle of technology, manufacturing, and marketing. This is a true partnership of an environmentally forward thinking, commercially viable product.
This free water reclamation system is neutral energy and designed to simplify water management operations. It permits a greater quantity of water to be removed at a given temperature compared to traditional direct condensation methods. It also limits water – gas contact time, reducing dissolution of gas-phase contaminates present in diesel exhaust and further enhancing this method’s use in obtaining high-purity water fit for human consumption.
Borla is committed to deliver this revolutionary device at a commercially available low price. Together, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Borla are committed to solving one of today’s greatest challenges to the health and survival of our Armed Forces, and to the earth itself.
California Lithium Battery, Inc.
Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies, Inc.
Titanium is viewed as one of the most strategic metals of our future. Its high-strength, lightweight, and good corrosion resistance makes it superior in many demanding applications, such as aerospace components. Dr. Randall German reported in 2009 that saving 2.2 pounds of weight on an aircraft is valued at $500 dollars in annual fuel savings, so the implementation of titanium into many of its components could contribute to significant fuel savings over time. Titanium is also the material of choice due to its bio-inertness for biomedical implants allowing them to be useful for a much longer period of time than the current standard, stainless steel, thus preventing multiple invasive replacement surgeries.
However, titanium’s extreme reactivity with casting mold materials and machining cutting tools makes fabrication of components with a complex final-shape rather expensive and inefficient. Generally, the “buy-to-fly” ratio for titanium aerospace parts is at least 10:1, with 90 percent of the original weight being converted to machining chips and scrap. An attractive solution to these inefficient fabrication methods is to use a powder metallurgy processing route, which has many advantages over other manufacturing methods and is much more energy and material efficient. One of the greenest manufacturing technologies within powder metallurgy is metal injection molding (MIM).
MIM is a series of steps of making large numbers of relatively small, but geometrically complex parts very efficiently. Metal powders are mixed with a low melting plastic and injected into reusable molds, the plastic is then removed and the remaining metallic parts are exposed to high temperatures to densify the parts. Typically the number of parts made by MIM can be from the thousands to millions per year. Since this is a near-net-shape process, very little scrap is generated (nearly a 1:1 “buy-to-fly” ratio). Reducing waste and energy costs have allowed the global MIM market to grow approximately 14 percent annually since 2002. Significant research has been conducted on titanium MIM (Ti-MIM) within the last five years and the technology for production of high quality Ti-MIM products exists in industry. The main hurdle to Ti-MIM is quality MIM powder at an affordable price.
As companies have seen the need for Ti-MIM powder, many technologies have been utilized to produce titanium powder. However, to date all powders are either too expensive or the properties of the powder are not suitable to Ti-MIM. One of the main ways powders of stainless steel are produced for MIM is by close-coupled gas atomization (CCGA). IPAT will utilize the economically viable method of CCGA with advanced processing technologies, unlocking CCGA’s potential for titanium powder production. This processing route allows for a tenfold increase in the yields of fine powder suitable for Ti-MIM compared to other atomization routes. Costs are not only reduced by increasing yields of suitable powder, but CCGA also utilizes the most cost-effective starting material.
SH Coatings LP
The most important application is coating power lines in ice storm threatened areas. Power lines coated with SHC prevent the ice build-up that come with ice storms by repelling the rain that ordinarily falls on power lines and freezes there forming a wing on the leeward side of the line and causing the lines to gallop during wind events. This action destroys the poles carrying the lines as well as cause lines to short out. Damage caused by these events causes severe economic damage to communities, and blacks out large areas of a region’s power grid when they hit – sometimes for extended times.
The most extreme damage example was an ice storm that almost completely shut down the grid around Montreal, Canada, in 1998. That storm caused $5 Billion in damage to the network, not including collateral damage to commercial, industrial and residential interests. There are many examples of similar here in the United States.
The Ice Belt here in the United States ranges from Montana to New Mexico and then east through the plains such as Kansas, Nebraska and Arkansas, where upper level low-pressure areas met high-pressure artic weather. Much of the Midwest and New England have also experienced ice storms that cause deaths as well as significant economic damage due to power outages. There has been no technology available until now to protect these systems. The SHC technology is now available and will help protect these important systems from problems created by these ice storms.
Costs to repair networks are great. The average cost of replacing one wooden power pole is approximately $2,000.00. With approximately 20 to 25 poles per mile, the cost can easily exceed $30,000 per mile. It is not unheard of for a single ice storm to pull down thousands of poles, which can cost a municipality from $20 to $40 million. Ask a rural electric coop what his biggest nightmare is and he will tell you an ice storm. That is what keeps their attention to the weather during the winter months. SHC will protect our power networks and defend against this catastrophe.
While our focus is upon damages caused by ice on power lines, we also believe that the SHC coating can be applied safely and effectively to adjoining trees and greenery that may threaten power lines by collapsing onto them. The SHC coating is toxicologically safe for the environment and could be sprayed onto dormant trees and greenery to prevent ice built up. While this treatment has yet to be tested, we believe that it is a viable possibility that will not harm the environment.
A reliable working and protected power network during winter events is important to the wellbeing of local, as well as large, networks and economies.
The RatCAP is a miniature PET scanner allows whole brain imaging in fully conscious rats for the first time. By far the world’s smallest and lightest PET scanner, it is the only PET system able to be mounted on the head of a lab rat, allowing for the first-time functional images of the whole brain during the rat’s typical behavior. Research PET centers will be eager to acquire this unique tool, and pharmaceutical companies will be interested in using it in drug development, especially for neurological applications in which anesthesia can interfere with the results. Even universities without access to the full infrastructure of PET will see this as a low-cost entry into the growing field of PET imaging.
The small-animal PET insert for MRI is an accessory for commercial small animal MRI systems to provide simultaneous PET and MRI imaging. An ultra compact and MRI-compatible PET scanner, designed to fit inside existing commercial small-animal MRI systems to provide simultaneous functional and structural imaging with PET and MRI.
Our other two devices provide great opportunities in the clinical human diagnostic and treatment markets
The wrist scanner is a practical non-invasive way to bring quantitative PET to the bedside. It’s an imaging instrument that measures radioactivity levels in the blood, potentially eliminating the need for invasive arterial blood sampling in human PET research, and thus facilitating the use of enhanced quantitative procedures in the clinic. The wrist scanner will enable personalized protocols in medical treatment, like for chemotherapy. Your physician will know during your first treatment whether it is working or not, and if it needs to be adjusted. This will save time, and lives.
The Breast PET-MRI is a compact MRI-compatible PET system able to retrofit clinical MRI systems to simultaneously image breast tumors with PET and MRI, thereby adding to the clinical confidence of MRI findings (which have a high false positive rate), and reducing unnecessary biopsy by directing attention to the most suspicious lesions.
These products will enhance pharmaceutical development of new cancer drugs, and drugs for neurological disorders like Alzheimers or Parkinsons. Furthermore, our devices for the clinical market will help us detect cancer more accurately and treat it more effectively.
The founders of SynchroPET are interested in a profitable company, but almost as important, we are interested in making a difference.
Teknikem, A Division of RockinBoat LLC
TrakLok’s approach is to deter, detect, and defend our clients’ cargo. An authorization code tied to predefined locations and time windows allows or denies access to a shipping container or trailer with the GeoLok® device. Only the right person at the right place at the right time can access a shipping container protected by the GeoLok device. TrakLok utilizes a case-hardened locking mechanism coupled with global wireless communications package to ensure our clients always know the location, status, and condition of their cargo.
In addition to preventing unauthorized and unannounced entry through the doors of a container, it delivers critical intelligence regarding location, condition, and security of cargo. The device provides real-time information about the condition and location of high-value cargo and shipping containers. Using cellular, satellite, GPS, accelerometery, and next-generation local area network technology, the location of a container is continuously monitored as well as the mechanism for controlling access.
TrakLok directly provides potential solutions to the global supply chain. TrakLok’s value is stopping loss and increasing asset velocity providing the tools for reducing inspections, reducing inventory and overhead, and sets the stage for insurance incentives. This product alters the playing field for homeland security, reduces commercial losses, and enables better resource allocation. The product suite protects our clients’ brands and customers by ensuring product integrity and expediting commerce, thereby making increased homeland security a cost-free proposition.
US e-Chromic, based in Boulder, Colorado, was formed in March 2011, for the purpose of developing and commercializing reflective electrochromic (EC) thin film based on options to patents exclusively licensed from NREL. The company has exclusive rights to 3 issued and 1 pending NREL patents and non-exclusive rights to 3 issued and 7 pending NREL patents. Our EC thin film will be applied to existing windows, transforming them into highly energy efficient ‘smart windows.’ Our EC technology can reduce building air conditioning usage by 25 to 40 percent. We intend to be the industry standard for the window retrofit market.
Competing EC technologies on the market today turn dark (and therefore absorb heat) when activated. Because they absorb heat, these EC technologies must be built into the interior of new window units (IGUs), making them very expensive to acquire (often priced at more than $100 per square foot). Existing windows must be replaced by these new window units, so installation costs, including potentially vacating space and/or requiring rigging, can dramatically increase the total cost of acquisition. Additionally, disposing of the existing windows can add costs and create unnecessary landfill.
US e-Chromic’s EC thin film reflects sunlight and its heat when activated. Reflecting (not absorbing) heat enables our technology to be applied from inside an office or home onto existing windows, thus eliminating the costs, dislocation and landfill associated with purchasing and installing expensive replacement EC windows. Unlike our competitors’ EC windows that are wired into the building infrastructure for both power and control, our EC thin film will be powered with a very small PV cell and battery and will include a control module that wirelessly interfaces with the customer’s building management system. We anticipate end-user pricing at approximately $20 per square foot.
Thermal transfer through windows accounts for about 4 percent (approximately 4.1 quadrillion BTUs per year) of the total annual US energy consumption, according to the Energy Department. Additionally, windows account for more than 30 percent of building air conditioning costs. HVAC accounts for 39 percent of building energy usage according to the 2008 Buildings Energy Data Book. This problem becomes much larger when considering Europe, Asia and Australia. Our EC thin film for windows addresses the tremendous electrical energy usage and GHG emissions that are caused by inefficient windows in commercial and residential structures.
We are currently continuing research, development and testing under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NREL. In addition to the prototype anticipated to be delivered in February 2012, additional refinement of the technical recipe and testing will occur until the completion of the CRADA in Septempter 2012. We plan to develop a pilot production line in 2013, which will become operational by mid- to late 2013.
We intend to build our production facilities in an economically disadvantaged location that suffers from chronic above-average unemployment. By doing so, we will employ significant numbers of otherwise unemployed workers. We believe that this has the added benefit of creating an extremely loyal and stable workforce. The company also anticipates the benefit of state and municipal economic incentives associated with this decision.
Umpqua Energy, Inc.
Umpqua Energy is managed by a team of experts in energy conservation, transportation technologies, patent law, economic development, manufacturing and production, and the commercialization of evolving technologies. This unique depth and breadth of experience positions Umpqua Energy to successfully introduce innovative products to the market focused on energy conservation, environmental enhancement, and the stimulation of economic growth.
The EVOPAC™: Evolutionizing Motion is company’s latest breakthrough product offering revolutionary advances in energy conservation, pollution control, and automotive power delivery. Umpqua Energy’s EVOPAC™ system unites two cutting-edge technologies to dramatically improve gas mileage, while reducing the dangerous emission of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrous oxide by 85 to 95 percent. Combining an advanced hydrogen-injection system with a DeNOx Catalyst, the EVOPAC™ dramatically increases a vehicle’s fuel economy while reducing its noxious emissions.
Pre-treatment: fuel economy and a cleaner burn
The EVOPAC™ system allows an internal combustion engine to burn fuel more completely, wasting less fuel in the form of harmful emissions. A plasma reformer gets installed into the engine compartment and converts fuel into hydrogen. The plasma reformer breaks apart gasoline or diesel fuel and extracts hydrogen from the fuel. The hydrogen, then, gets injected into the combustion chambers and ignites the fuel earlier in the engine’s process, causing more power in the downward stroke. The hydrogen causes the fuel to burn more completely, resulting in greater fuel efficiency, less emissions, and more power. Tests have demonstrated reductions in fuel usage in hydrogen-injection systems compared with conventional combustion engines. And the introduction of hydrogen into the engine virtually eliminates fuel emissions while greatly reducing the emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.
After-treatment – for emissions control
There is one negative effect of many lean-burning hydrogen-injection systems: harmful nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions increase. This is where the second technological component of the EVOPAC™ comes in: Umpqua Energy’s DeNOx Catalyst is a newer technology that attaches to the tailpipe and has been proven to reduce NOx emissions by 85 percent. Combined with hydrogen injection, the complete EVOPAC™ system provides the most complete emission reduction system known in the marketplace.
Compliance with new regulations, and economic stimulation
In May 2009, the federal government mandated mileage increases and emission decreases for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The State of California and major automakers showed their support and the market is now poised for breakthrough technologies to increase fuel savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. EVOPAC™ is the most complete emission reduction system available for internal combustion engines, and is uniquely poised as the only system that can already exceed both of these new demands.
The introduction of the EVOPAC™ into production vehicles nationwide would immediately reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign oil while shrinking fuel budgets and dramatically cleaning up our air, and we can only imagine the economic stimulus enabled by radically diminishing the cost of fuel usage nationwide.
Vorbeck Materials Corp.
Vorbeck Materials was founded in 2006 to bring to market products using graphene, a sheet of carbon that is only a single atom thick. Graphene is the strongest material ever tested and is electrically and thermally conductive. In recent years, there has been significant interest and activity on graphene research and its potential applications. The Aksay Labs at Princeton University produced a patented method for manufacturing graphene at commercial scale. Vorbeck signed a worldwide license for the Princeton technology and commissioned a ton-scale graphene manufacturing plant in 2007.
The partnership between Vorbeck, PNNL and Princeton ultilizes graphene’s unique properties to enable major improvements in the performance of lithium ion batteries, which are widely used in laptops and smartphones and to power electric vehicles. Graphene offers unique advantages as an electrode material in lithium ion batteries because it is strong, thin and highly conductive. Even small quantities of high-quality, single-sheet graphene can lead to batteries that both store large amounts of energy and recharge quickly – breaking traditional trade-offs in battery design between capacity, power and recharge rate. Whereas today’s cell phone batteries typically take between two and five hours to recharge, batteries with graphene-based anodes could recharge in less than 10 minutes.
The unique performance properties of graphene combined with specifically designed chemical modification of the graphene and a novel porous structure has advanced the limit on in what is feasible for lithium battery energy storage. Developments by PNNL and Princeton of lithium air batteries incorporating graphene as a cathode material set the highest energy storage capacity ever recorded, 15,000 milliamp hours per gram. The impact for consumer products will be dramatic. Electric cars with a current range of 100 miles after 10 to 12 hours of recharge will have a range of 400 miles.
Vorbeck, in collaboration with PNNL and Princeton, is working to rapidly bring this new technology to market. Vorbeck is partnering with Hardwire LLC to integrate the new batteries into hybrid military vehicles and is collaborating with companies to incorporate the new technology in toys, tools, and commercial vehicles.
Vorbeck is the only company in the world with commercial graphene-based products on the market today. Products using Vorbeck’s graphene-based circuits have already been sold in major retail chains.
Woodmont Enterprises LLC
Our validation partner with topcoat solutions has strong active channelized sales today with needs of protecting their product during transport. Our primary focus has been to identify a price that would allow immediate client adoption of our waterproofing coating solution.
Woodmont has been working with other polymer-based coatings that were costly. We were introduced to the technology transfer initiative out of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and immediately knew there were possibilities for OSB coating with our optioned technology. We have been testing this optioned technology “superhydrophobic diatomaceous earth” with a validation partner and seen significant net benefits in real-world scenarios. Our focus has been to create positive cash flow immediately on conversion from “option” to “license.” Applications for the product include mold-resistant coatings on OSB for residential wood products.
Mold has created health issues in residential placements, and remediation processes for flood damage could coat OSB in those settings. We see both retail and channelized industrial sales opportunities with our final product.