New Energy Symposium’s Big Winners Are Small and Ultra-thin


In a previous post, I wrote about the New Energy Symposium held last month in New York City. The first day of the event featured a startup quick pitch competition, and the three winners of the competition were recently announced.

They are, in alphabetical order, Dynamo Micropower, ENrG, and Paper Battery Company (as discussed below, the latter two share an “ultra-thin” theme). I listened to all of the winning companies’ presentations, and each mentioned, to a different extent, its IP situation.

Dynamo Micropower (Dynamo) is developing small turbines for various applications, including combined heat and power and pumping oil at wells. The company is applying recent advances in turbine technology to commercialize small, ultra portable generators.

Dynamo was founded by three recent college grads from Duke University–Jason Ethier, Ivan Wang, & Hardy Shen. The CEO, Mr. Ethier, who gave the presentation on behalf of Dynamo, said the company filed a U.S. patent application on its technology earlier this year, so the application is not published yet.

ENrG Inc. (ENrG) is a Buffalo, New York-area company that develops ultra-thin ceramic membranes and coating technologies for various applications such as fuel cells, gas separation, and possibly flexible solar photovoltaics.

ENrG’s President, John Olenick, presented at the symposium. He said that, through IP licensed in from Corning, the company has staked out the range of 45 microns or lower for ceramic membrane technology, and a pending license includes more supporting patents.

ENrG also owns U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2009/0325014 (’014 Application), and Mr. Olenick is a named inventor on U.S. Patent No. 7,281,412 (’412 Patent).

The ’412 Patent is entitled “In-situ seal integrity monitoring” and directed to a high temperature seal having in-situ integrity monitoring capability. One important application for the technology, described in the ’412 Patent, is in solid oxide fuel cells.

A fuel cell (2) has a first ceramic plate (4) with a fuel flow port (6) leading to a fuel plenum (8) and a second ceramic plate (10) having an oxygen flow port (12) leading to an oxygen plenum (14).

Cell stack (16) is disposed between the plates (4, 10) and includes a first current collector (18A), an anode (18), a solid ceramic electrolyte (20), a cathode (22), and a second current collector (22A).

A pair of seals (24, 26) are respectively disposed between the plates (4, 10) and the cell stack (16) to bond the components of the fuel cell together and prevent outgassing from the fuel and oxygen plenums (8, 14). The seals (24, 26) can can be constructed with an embedded transmission line (30A) that includes a central signal conductor (32A) and a pair of ground reference conductors (34A).

The transmission line (30A) can be connected in a closed loop circuit for signal injection and monitoring of the integrity of the seals (24, 26) during device fabrication and subsequent field operations.

The ’014 Application is entitled “Operation of an electrolysis cell” and directed to systems and methods for operating electrolysis cells and maintaining desired thermal neutral voltage level under varying electrical power supply conditions. The invention accomplishes this by adjusting the feedstock moisture content in response to fluctuations in available electric power.

The third winner, Papery Battery Company (PBC), is also in the ultra-thin business: PBC makes patterned batteries out of high pulse superconductor sheets about 300 microns thick. According to its web site, PBC’s central innovation is “a novel architecture and production process for supercapacitor technology, extensible to battery technology as well.”

The company says its PowerPatch product is small and scalable:

The first product line, called PowerPatch™, is an ultrathin, integrated supercapacitor that can scale voltage, energy and power in a single unit, addressing the growing needs for high power in smaller size and lower weight devices.

PBC’s CEO, Shreefal Mehta, presented at the symposium and said the company has filed some patent applications and is employing a licensing business model. During, his presentation, Mehta alluded to a pending deal with a licensee in the energy storage space.

Eric Lane is a patent attorney at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at elane@mckennalong.com



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