Friday, June 4, 2010

EEStor Grid Patent Note

The process of converting a drum of very valuable nano powder into a working device inside what must be a really good clean room is more than enough to mute anyone.  The silence speaks volumes and proves just how serious it all is at this point.  There is plenty to accomplish without the distraction of third party interest.

In the meantime, rumbles are also informing us that others are also following the same trail and we may well have multiple solutions in the pipeline.  Remember that the underlying idea is bone simple and can be modeled with a bunch of marbles.  Since that is true, I have no doubt that core questions of fabrication geometry and power control are long ago answered.

Actual fabrication is a different matter and is surely the reason for the silence.  One can only imagine the aggravation convincing a twenty nanometer powder able to grab a static charge to lie down in neat layers and be attached somehow.   It needs to somehow be done and I am sure that it will be demonstration of ingenuity.

This item reports on recent patent activity which as reported is rather encouraging.


EEStor’s latest patent: large-scale grid storage for renewables

Tyler Hamilton is a business columnist for the Toronto Star, Canada's largest daily newspaper. In addition to this Clean Break blog, Tyler writes a weekly column of the same name that discusses trends, happenings and innovators in the clean technology and green energy market. This blog is a personal project started in April 2005. It is not an official blog of the newspaper.

Since it’s been all-too-quiet on the EEStor front, I figured I’d at least draw attention to the company’s latest patent approval — this one titled “Systems and Methods for Utility Grid Power Averaging, Long Term Uninterruptible Power Supply…”

A link to the patent, which was just approved a few days ago by the U.S. patent office, can be found here at the EEStor and ZENN appear to be in complete lock down — no information is flowing from either. I’ve being hearing chatter in the investment community that EEStor has run into some technical (not financial) trouble, but then again, I’ve been hearing this kind of chatter for the past few years since I wrote my first feature on the company in theToronto Star. I tried to arrange a visit to EEStor’s headquarters in Cedar Park, Texas, for some time this summer. I wanted to gather some information for a book I’m working on that will be released next fall, but Weir — despite my offer to sign a non-disclosure — wouldn’t allow it. He wished me luck and said he doesn’t want or need the attention. (The book, by the way, isn’t just about EEStor, but EEStor will represent a chapter in it. The book will be about barriers to energy innovation… stay tuned).
Fair enough.

The explanation in the patent of how an EESU could benefit the grid is pretty straight forward, so this is really no surprise. But it’s nice to see the company beginning to accumulate a sizable stockpile of patents to protect its IP. Despite the silence out of Cedar Park (and Toronto), I do find it interesting that there are some other ventures hot on EEStor’s heels, just as Weir was expecting. On April 29, for example, the U.S. Department of Energy announced funding as part of its ARPA-E program. One recipient of funding was venture spun out of Penn State University called Recapping Inc., which received $1 million.

“Recapping Inc. and researchers at Pennsylvania State University will seek to develop a novel energy storage device based on a 3D nanocomposite structure with functional oxides that provide a very high effective capacitance. The basic fabrication of the dielectric materials and devices will utilize traditional multilayer ceramic fabrication methods that will provide a cost-effective alternative to battery solutions, with the added benefits of exploiting mechanisms that could maintain higher cycling and possibly deliver charge with high power density. This technology hopes to create a cyclable and economically competitive energy storage device that will catalyze new, related cleantech industries and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases and oil imports,” according to the DOE’s description of what Recapping is doing. Notably, who’s the only executive of Recapping Inc.? That would be Alex Kinnier of Khosla Ventures. I tried to contact Kinnier, who wouldn’t talk but said to come back in 12 months.

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