Secretary Chu Announces Winning Startup Companies for ‘America’s Next Top Energy Innovator’ Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–February 10, 2012.  Building on President Obama’s State of the Union address in which he discussed the Obama Administration’s commitment to supporting innovation and American companies, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the three winning startup companies  – based on a public vote and an expert review – out of the 14 participating in the “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge.

The three winning companies are:

  • IPAT, a startup company based in Nevada, Iowa, is using gas atomization technology developed at Ames Laboratory to make titanium powder with processes that are ten times more efficient than traditional powder-making methods — significantly lowering the cost of the powder to manufacturers. The powder form of titanium is easier to work with than having to cast the metal — where manufacturers melt and pour liquid metal into molds — particularly given titanium’s tendency to react with the materials used to form molds. Titanium’s strength, light weight, biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion make it ideal for use in a variety of parts — from components for artificial limbs — like those used by wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — to military vehicle components, biomedical implants, aerospace fasteners and chemical plant valves. View a video on the company’s technology HERE.
  • Umpqua Energy, a startup company based in Medford, Oregon, is using an Argonne National Laboratory technology to develop a system that allows a gasoline engine to operate in an extreme lean burn mode in order to increase gasoline mileage. One negative side effect of a lean burn engine, whether powered by gasoline or diesel fuel, is an increase in the amount of harmful gases released to the environment. The company expects to both increase fuel economy and simultaneously reduce emissions with its system. View a video on the company’s technology HERE.
  • Vorbeck Materials, a startup company based in Jessup, Maryland, is using a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)-developed method for building tiny chemical structures to greatly improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that are widely used in portable devices such as laptops and power electric vehicles. Vorbeck is using PNNL’s method to develop better lithium air and lithium sulfur batteries. The new material in Vorbeck’s batteries stores twice as much electricity at high charge and discharge rates as current lithium-ion batteries, and creates increased battery capacity and a longer cycle life. View a video on the company’s technology HERE.

“Congratulations to the winning companies for this year’s America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge.  These innovative startup companies are leading the way in creating new businesses based on discoveries made by our world-leading national laboratories,” said Energy Secretary Chu. “Through this challenge and the Obama Administration’s Startup America Initiative, we are unleashing startup companies to do what they do best: create new products, new industries, and new jobs.”

From January 26 through February 6, Americans cast nearly half a million votes online by liking the most innovative and promising startup companies that participated in the America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge.  Experts conducted a separate review of the companies and scored them based on their potential economic and societal contributions. Americans can view profiles and the final public vote numbers of the competing startups by visiting http://energy.gov/topinnovator.

The winning teams for this year’s competition will be featured at the premier annual gathering of clean energy investors and innovators around the country, the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, at the end of the month.

America’s Next Top Energy Innovator is part of the Obama Administration’s Startup America initiative, which aims to create the best possible climate for high-growth entrepreneurs across the country. As part of America’s Next Top Energy Innovator, the Department reduces both the cost and paperwork requirements for startup companies to obtain an option agreement to license some of the 15,000 patents and patent applications held by the Department’s 17 national laboratories to build successful businesses.  Thirty-six companies in total have signed these option agreements with the national laboratories. Last week, the Department announced that it is kicking off a second year of “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator.” View information on the second round HERE.

Descriptions of the three runners up are below.

7AC Technologies, based in Woburn, Massachusetts, is developing Liquid Desiccant HVAC systems for Commercial and Industrial buildings using technology from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These Liquid Desiccant HVAC systems deliver a 50 to 75 percent reduction in energy usage over conventional HVAC units. The system consists of a membrane conditioner responsible for drying and cooling the air and a heat-driven regenerator. The liquid desiccant design allows for the utilization of solar or waste heat sources, paving the way for net-zero energy retrofits to existing buildings with costs comparable to conventional HVAC. View a video on the company’s technology HERE.

California Lithium Battery (CaLBattery), based in Los Angeles, California, is developing a low-cost, advanced lithium-ion battery that employs a novel silicon graphene composite material that will substantially improve battery cycle life.  When combined with other advanced battery materials, it could effectively lower battery life cycle cost by up to 70 percent. Over the next year, CALBattery will be working with Argonne National Laboratory to combine their patented silicon-graphene anode material process together with other advanced ANL cathode and electrolyte battery materials. View a video on the company’s technology HERE.

Element One, based in Boulder, Colorado, has created the only available coatings that change color when detecting hydrogen and other hazardous gas leaks, either reversibly or non-reversibly, to provide both current and historical information about leaks.  Element One’s patented gas indicators and sensors use catalyzed thin films or nanoparticles of a transition metal oxide to create very low cost sensors for use in industrial and consumer environments, greatly reducing the potential for undetected leaks and their cost and safety implications.  This technology is also being integrated for use in refineries, industry gas and fuel cells systems and was developed using technology from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. View a video on the company’s technology HERE.

Learn more about DOE’s America’s Next Top Energy Innovator program HERE. Learn more about the Obama Administration’s Startup America initiative HERE

Source: energy.gov