Tag: FirePower


From Customer Discovery to De-Risking Technology – It’s Time for NEXUS-NY Phase 2

After three months of intense preparation, the NEXUS-NY midterms mark a milestone in our program.

At the beginning of 2017, nine innovative early-stage technologies were selected to join NEXUS-NY’s proof-of-concept center based on their potential to make an impact, and solve big energy and environmental problems. These teams entered into a structured process for testing the commercial potential of their innovations, guided by a network of business advisors and supported by early-stage funding for prototyping and customer development.

Now it’s time to assess how much each team has accomplished, and determine who will move forward into Phase 2 of our clean energy accelerator. Panelists comprised of industry experts helped answer this question by judging team pitches and providing feedback during our midterm presentations.

“I’m always blown away by how much progress these very early stage NEXUS teams are able to make in a few short months. By getting out and talking with potential customers early on, the insights they gain are remarkable, and significantly accelerate their path to market – with products and services that solve real problems,” said Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester.

NEXUS-NY Cohort 4 Midterm JudgesAlongside Jim on the judges’ panel was entrepreneur Dorrance Lamb, Tim Wilson, Chairman of Rochester Angel Network, and Jeff Peterson, Program Manager with NYSERDA. “This years cohort is no different. From next gen combined heat and power, to photovoltaics, to LED displays, the technologies and markets are different, but the process and results are the same. I look forward to seeing even further advancement after Phase 2 has completed,” added Senall.

In Phase 2 each team will receive up to $75,000 for further prototyping, IP services, investor due diligence reporting, entity formation and travel, along with help securing additional grants and investments.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the teams advancing forward with NEXUS-NY!

A novel way to generate heat and reduce energy.

From refrigerators and sump pumps, to cell phones and computers, when your power goes out, Firepower saves the day.

Firepower - Syracuse University - Ryan Milcarek Firepower is a novel fuel cell-assisted, resilient heating and power technology derived from Syracuse University. Dr. Jeongmin Ahn, director of the Combustion and Energy Research Lab, originally developed part of the concept with his colleague Dr. Khalifa. It’s a way to create a self-powered, grid-independent and self-contained furnace made possible by having a fuel cell that operates directly in a flame.

“This is completely different than anything else in the industry. We’re addressing a problem that furnace manufacturers have never been able to address before.” said Ryan Milcarek, Entrepreneur Lead of Firepower. “Using this technology, your furnace generates heat and electricity enabling it to power itself and give homeowners a choice of what else to power.”

Ryan was working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program and interested in HVAC. When he came across the patent at Syracuse University, he liked the idea of a furnace and a fuel cell, so he decided to do his PhD on the technology.

“Heat is a need, and we need power for that heat. But when the power goes out, we have no heat,” explained Milcarek. “Last winter when my power went out and I had a 10-month-old in the house, I was concerned.”

After graduating, Ryan stayed with the project because he believes in its commercial potential. In addition to providing an alternative source of power, Ryan says the technology is a  low-cost system that reduces NOx emissions and saves energy. “In all, Firepower is tackling a $1.8 billion industry,” he added.

Firepower has also received a significant amount of funding to take its early-stage technology and do something with it. This includes an AMTEC grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and a NYSERDA PON 2606 for single cell testing. NEXUS-NY and the Syracuse Center of Excellence have further supported Firepower, and Ryan was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Syracuse University’s tech transfer office is now working with Ryan to help the Firepower team license the technology so they can form a company and further accelerate their commercialization efforts. The NYS Science and Technology Law Center at Syracuse University is also assisting with IP and market assessment

With a nondisclosure agreement already in place with a large component manufacturer that is ready to sell their technology, Ryan says the next step is for Firepower to develop an actual furnace. “We already have a working prototype, now we need to prove the electrical efficiency, and test some materials.”

Ryan believes Firepower is two years away from commercialization.

Opening a new market with affordable, flexible and lightweight solar panels.

Lux Semiconductors - SUNY PolyFounded by two PhD students in their research lab at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Lux Semiconductors is drastically reducing the cost of lightweight and flexible solar cells.

Shane McMahon and Graeme Housser met while working in the same research group, one dedicated to clean energy technologies. Familiar with thin film solar, the two partnered together to combine their technical and industry knowledge to create a high quality product not found on the market today.

“The solar industry is growing at an average rate of 60% year over year, and all of this growth is based on standard silicon solar panels. These panels are great, but they can’t be installed everywhere that people want to put them, because of their shape and weight,” said Graeme. “So we are developing a new technology to produce lightweight, flexible solar cells, and importantly without sacrificing performance or affordability.”

Having interviewed over 60 potential customers in Phase 1 of the NEXUS-NY program about their flexible and lightweight solar cells, Shane and Graeme feel confident they’re on the right track.

“Ensuring that our technology has product-market fit is what the customer discovery process is all about. Through constant interaction with potential customers, we’ve been able to identify new ways to direct the development of our technology that will deliver the most value to our future customers,” said Shane.

“We were a little naive when we first started, we wanted to take on the entire solar industry,” added Graeme. “We quickly learned that we need to focus on a niche application first, and then scale from there.”

Shane and Graeme have found three major markets in the solar industry that Lux Semiconductors could target. The first is portable power applications, where solar packs are used for extended military deployments, emergency responders, and outdoor enthusiasts. The second is building and vehicle-integrated solar panels, such as awnings, solar canopies, carports, trucks with overnight cabins, small boats, and RVs. And the third is commercial and industrial weight-constrained rooftops, where nearly 40% of all malls, big-box retailers, and industrial warehouses across the U.S. have weight-constrained roofs.

“Portable power looks like a solid entry market. It’s lower scale with high margins, but not as big as integrated buildings or industrial rooftops,” said Graeme. “It’s our plan to scale up to those other larger markets over time.”

Now accepted into NEXUS-NY Phase 2, Lux Semiconductors will focus on creating high quality,  thin film substrates that are used as the underlying materials for solar cells.

“We are planning to purchase additional equipment to fabricate our unique substrate materials, which we expect to be nearly 100 times cheaper per unit area than today’s industry standard wafer version,” said Shane.

Lux Semiconductors already has several partners who are interested in testing their samples in their devices.

Quick and easy assembly of small LED chips into a grid array.

SelfArray - RPI - Mark DurniakSelfArray’s novel system utilizes diamagnetic levitation for the self assembly of LED’s for displays. This assembly process is not only quick and easy, it helps enable digital billboards, which are more energy efficiency, brighter, and with higher contrast.

SelfArray was developed by electrical engineering professor James Lu in the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Engineering Research Center at RPI. The company was incorporated in 2015, and after receiving NSF SBIR funding last year, Dr. Mark Durniak was added to the team as a full-time principal engineer.

“Dr. Lu had been following my research. So when I graduated we connected about bringing his technology to market,” said Mark.

SelfArray CEO Clint Ballinger heard about NEXUS-NY during an information session at RPI. The team has spent the last several months working on customer discovery and prototyping.

“Originally developed for lighting panels, we learned through market research that, though our technology could deliver very high resolution for TV sized displays, competing with the LCD market wouldn’t be wise, said Mark. “We now believe the technology is better suited for large-scale indoor digital displays.”

SelfArray is on track to complete Phase 1 of their National Science Foundation (NSF) deliverable, which includes a low resolution display. Mark said this is a good first step, but the industry wants to see something more in line with products today.

“When you walk into the Apple store you see a 1mm pitch display in the back,” explained Mark. “With our novel system utilizing diamagnetic levitation, we can assembly those large displays in minutes rather than weeks.”

SelfArray’s go to market strategy involves selling directly to top display makers. They are now working with an LED supplier to join forces with a display maker and further test their technology. Mark anticipates the company will be generating revenue as early as 2018, with a product launch scheduled for 2019.

With funding from NEXUS-NY Phase 2, SelfArray will push forward with these objectives. They are also seeking to raise an additional $1 million from individual investors.

Several Other Teams Move Forward to NEXUS-NY Phase 2

Among them include:

Active Energy Systems (Cornell University)
Thermo-mechanical energy storage system for data centers. AES utilizes waste heat and phase change materials to enable high round trip efficiencies at low cost.

Printed Photovoltaics (Rochester Institute of Technology)
Lightweight, moldable, printed solar cells for indoor applications. Printed PV enables extended life of wireless IoT devices.

Sunny Clean Water (University at Buffalo)
Nanomaterial and system that enables rapid water evaporation for two key applications: water desalination and purification; and increased throughput of salt recovery in mines.

Continue to follow the progress of these passionate inventors and entrepreneurs. Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters to receive special invites to industry events, including Demo Day this fall in Rochester, NY.

9 New Clean Energy Technologies Chosen to Power the Next Generation

Meet the 2017 NEXUS-NY Research Teams

NEXUS-NY’s proof-of-concept accelerator is ready for another year of helping to catalyze the commercialization of research-derived clean energy technologies. After months of meetings at colleges and universities across NYS, the NEXUS-NY team has selected 9 rockstar clean energy innovations that have major potential to power innovation, and fuel the future.

Here’s your first look at the promising early-stage clean energy technologies NEXUS-NY will invest in, and mentor in 2017.

Active Energy Storage (Cornell) – Thermomechanical energy storage
AES technology intelligently manages different sources of thermal energy to inexpensively store electricity. This helps incorporate renewable resources into the power grid. Diurnal temperature swings can further enhance storage efficiency when storing electricity as thermal energy. AES technology represents a step forward over conventional pumped-heat electricity storage units.

Levon Atoyan | NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Levon Atoyan
Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate of Electrical, Computer Engineering at Cornell University. He is a participant in Technology Entrepreneurship at Cornell. Levon received a Bachelor of Engineering from McGill University. Publications include: Helical Plasma Striations in Liners in the Presence of an External Axial Magnetic Field and Early time studies of cylindrical liner implosions at 1 MA on COBRA.

Mitchell Ishmael | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Mitchell Ishmael
Tester Lab Research Assistant and PhD candidate of Materials Sciences & Engineering, Thermodynamics & Energy Storage at Cornell University. Mitchell is a recipient of a Commercialization Fellowship. He received a Bachelor of Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Chemical Engineering. He’s interested in understanding heat capacity of fluid mixtures under supercritical conditions.

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Alta Films (formerly CQuest Partners LLC) (Clarkson) – Carbon nanosheets for energy storage
Alta Films is commercializing the next-generation, renewable energy storage technology for supercapacitors, lithium-ion batteries and beyond. Alta Films holds several of Dr. Mitlin’s patents related to producing a unique graphene-like carbon nanosheet material from low cost agricultural products.

David Hessler | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: David Hessler
Numerous consulting assignments including Innovation Advisor, and EIR with the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA); Business Advisor with MicroGen Systems; Board Member with the Reh Center for Entrepreneurship at Clarkson University; and Advisory Board Member with the iCLEAN Incubator. David received an MBA and MSE from the University of Michigan, and a BSME from Clarkson University.

Dr, David Mitlin | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Dr. David Mitlin
Professor and GE Chair in Oil and Gas Systems at Clarkson University jointly in the Departments of Chemical/Biomolecular and Mechanical Engineering. He has published over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented over 80 keynote talks. David holds 3 U.S. patents, is an Editor for the Journal of Materials Science and serves on the Board of Review for Metallurgical and Materials Transactions. PhD from Berkeley.
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FirePower (Syracuse) – Flame-assisted fuel cells for micro-CHP
FirePower seeks to create cleaner combustion through the combined use of fuel cell and combustion theory and technology by reducing the formation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in combustion processes. The concept utilizes a two-stage combustor, also known as a rich-burn, quick-mix, lean-burn or RQL combustor, with a fuel cell integrated between the fuel-rich and fuel-lean combustion zones. This flame-assisted fuel cell generates electrochemical power at high efficiency, as well as heat for a range of applications including combined cycles, space heating, and jet engines.

Ryan Milcarek | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Ryan Milcarek
Lab Manager at the Combustion and Energy Research Laboratory, and PhD candidate of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Syracuse University. Ryan earned a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation and an ASHRAE Graduate Grant-In-Aid, Life Member Club designation. His various publications include Micro-tubular Flame-assisted Fuel Cell Stacks.

Dr. Jeongmin Ahn | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Dr. Jeongmin Ahn
Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University, and affiliated with the Combustion and Energy Research Laboratory (COMER). Jeongmin’s current research includes Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs). He was elected as Fellow of ASME, and received the Sustainable Aviation Research Society Science Award. He has nearly 200 publications.

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LuX (SUNY Poly) – Thin film crystallization for PV
LuX is developing and commercializing technology to provide highly crystalline, roll-to-roll semiconductor films for photovoltaic and LED industries. This exciting platform technology is adaptable to a range of valuable materials and will disrupt the typical tradeoffs of cost and quality for high throughput manufacturing.

Graeme Housser | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Graeme Housser
PhD candidate at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Graeme is also a Graduate Student Intern at U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC). Prior to this, he was a Site Engineer at Suncor Energy. His several publications include Demonstration of PV Modules with Lightweight Mounting Systems on Commercial Rooftops.

 

Technical Lead: Shane McMahon
Phd Candidate and Research Assistant at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Shane received the Presidential Scholar Honorary Alumni Speaker award at Siena College (2016) and a $500,000 NYSERDA Bench to Prototype Grant (2015). Shane’s publications include Textured (111) Crystalline Silicon Thin Film Growth on Flexible Glass by E-beam Evaporation.

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MicroEra Power (RIT Venture Creations) – Combined SOFC/IC engine system for distributed power generation
MicroEra Power is developing a highly efficient Enhanced Generator System, combining a natural gas engine and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). MicroEra Power envisions an energy management platform to provide backup power generation, peak-shaving, Demand Response, and the efficiency benefits of combined heat and power (CHP), and combined heat and cooling power (CHCP).

Eleanor Rusling | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearchersEntrepreneur Lead: Eleanor “Ellie” Rusling
CEO of MicroEra Power, housed in RIT’s Venture Creations Incubator. Board Member of Highland Hospital Foundation, Secretary of AHEAD Energy, 501c3 and Exec. Director of their Clean Energy Commercialization Center. As an experienced entrepreneur, Ellie has skills in technologies to market, grant writing, and investor relations. BA from Smith College and MS from the University of Rochester.

James Grieve | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: M. James Grieve
CTO of MicroEra Power and Chairman of AHEAD Energy, 501c3. He is also a Board Member of the NH3 Fuel Association. James was a Chief Scientist for Delphi Corporation, and a Powertrain Systems Engineer for General Motors. He has 30 years of automotive engineering experience with emission controls, engine management systems, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels. James received his MBA from IESE Business School. He is named on over 40 patents.

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Printed Solar (RIT) – Solution Processed Solar Cells
Printed Solar is developing a fully solution processed photovoltaic device that can be scalably manufactured using roll-to-roll techniques. Their solar cells outperform silicon in low light, enabling them to provide sufficient energy for low power electronic devices in ambient conditions.

Dmitry Liapitch | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Dmitry Liapitch
Dmitry received a Master of Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is now pursuing a Master of Science from the Golisano Institute for Sustainability. Dmitry is also a professional Physics tutor and a former Research Fellow with the National Wildlife Federation. He was a finalist in RIT’s Tiger Tank in 2016 for his proposal on WoW Energy Systems.

 

James Sinka | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: James Sinka
James is a materials scientist and entrepreneur specializing in perovskite photovoltaics with deep interests in sensing technology. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Projects include The Characterization of Novel Donor Materials for OPV by Cyclic Voltammetry, which reveals the electric potentials at which an analyte is oxidized and reduced.

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SelfArray (RPI) – Directed self-assembly tech for LED & PV
SelfArray is an SBIR Phase I startup spun our of research conducted within LESA at RPI. SelfArray’s directed self-assembly (DSA) manufacturing technology uses magnetic levitation and vibration to rapidly arrange massive numbers of LED chips into a pixel-array for display applications. The company’s DSA technology differs fundamentally from both the widely accepted pick-and-place and the emerging transfer printing/stamping manufacturing methods, overcoming many issues associated with those technologies. DSA’s approach enables scalable, fast, and accurate self-assembly of micro-scale LEDs arrays at low capital and labor cost for the manufacturing of energy efficient LED direct view displays.

Mark Durniak | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Dr. Mark T. Durniak
PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at RPI. As a Sandia National Laboratory Excellence in Engineering Research Fellow at RPI, Mark was first to grow and achieve green luminescence from cubic GaN/GaInN. Published in Compound Semiconductor Magazine and Advanced Electronic Materials. He now focuses on characterizing magnetic directed-self-assembly of mm-scale LED chips for display and lighting applications.

Clinton Ballinger | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Clinton Ballinger
Clint is an Executive Entrepreneur in Residence at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he teaches and leads an NSF-funded I-Site program. He’s also an EIR with IgniteU NY, Strategic Advisor for Buzz Media Solutions and CEO of Evident Thermoelectrics. Prior to this, Clint was an Adjunct Professor at RPI and a Senior Scientist at Lockheed Martin. He received a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Michigan.
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Suny Clean Water (UB) – Solar powered water purification
Suny Clean Water has developed an inexpensive solar sill that uses sunlight to purify dirty water up to four times faster than current commercial versions. Research shows this process is 88% efficient at channeling the energy in sunlight into evaporating water. The technology will allow people to generate their own drinking water much like they generate their own power using rooftop solar panels.

Matthew Singer | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Matthew Singer
Matthew is pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University at Buffalo Graduate School. He has held engineering internships at Siemens and Crestron Electronics. Matt has also participated in GRoW Home at UB, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, an international competition with the goal of educating the public about energy-saving residential designs.

Chenyu Li | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Chenyu Li
Former Research Assistant with the Nano-optics and Biophotonics Lab at University of Buffalo and the Quantum-Dot Materials and Devices Research Group at Tianjin University. Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Chenyu’s projects include fabricating plasmonic super solar light absorber, building surface plasmon resonance detector and fabricating quantum dots anode.

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Tacus Technologies (Cornell) – Energy harvesting solutions
Tacus Technologies has developed a piezoelectrically powered RF Transponder that leverages a 3D-printed plastic structure to achieve low frequency sensitivity and a broadband response. By using a mechanical switching mechanism for transmission, Tacus has eliminated the use of traditional CMOS IC’s and achieved a zero-power sleep state. Tacus seeks to commercialize the technology in remote areas where there is no power readily available or in environments where replacing batteries for wireless nodes is too costly.

Entrepreneur Lead: Donald McCullough
Former Entrepreneurial Lead with the NYCRIN I-Corps Regional Cohort. Don graduated from the ILR School at Cornell University in 2015 and Wake Forest University School of Business in 2016 with a MA in Management. While at Wake Forest, he served as a graduate consultant for Cigna Healthcare and Vulcan Materials. Don was also a Student Ambassador, and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Society.

Sahil Gupta | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Sahil Gupta
Former Entrepreneurial Lead with NYCRIN I-Corps Region Cohort, Graduate Research Assistant with SonicMEMS Laboratory at Cornell, and Engineer for Boeing. Sahil received a Master of Engineering from Cornell, and placed first in the Hilton Head MEMS Shark-Pup Tank Entrepreneurship Competition. Publications include Vibration powered RF-Transponder for Sensing Low Frequency Motion Events.

 

In Phase I of the NEXUS-NY accelerator, each team will now work with world class mentors and industry experts to identify market opportunities for their clean energy technologies, including developing comprehensive business plans and conducting customer discovery.

We’re excited to continue assisting these entrepreneurs and scientists propel their amazing technologies forward. Join us by signing up for NEXUS-NY newsletters. We’ll release updates on the teams, and more details on events leading up to Demo Days in Rochester, NY and New York City.