Cyclotron Road selects Second Cohort of Energy Innovators

March 01, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab) Cyclotron Road program announced the selection of its second cohort of innovators, whose projects include next generation batteries, advanced materials, biomanufacturing, and solar technologies. The projects in the areas of batteries and photovoltaics include Cuberg, Iris PV, Sepion and Feasible.

Cuberg is developing solid-state batteries using low-cost materials that offer increased energy density, high-power performance, improved safety, thermal stability, and scalable processing. Ultimately, this pioneering technology could power the electric vehicles of the future.

Iris PV will develop a double-junction solar cell with practical panel efficiency approaching 30%. By integrating solution-deposited Perovskite photovoltaics in a tandem cell with existing Si and CdTe technology the total production cost is estimated to be $0.35/W, putting disruptive $0.03/kWh solar power within reach.

Lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries promise low-cost, energy-dense storage for electric vehicles with the potential for a three-fold cost reduction compared to today’s Li-ion technology. Sepion has demonstrated a new class of polymer membranes to improve the longevity of Li-S batteries at high power densities over sustained periods of time.

Feasible invented a method for determining the state of charge, state of health, and physical structure of any closed battery using acoustic interrogation. This low-cost, non-destructive, and scalable technology could reduce the time and cost of battery development, manufacturing, and qualification by linking cell performance directly to structure, changing how batteries are made, tested, and managed everywhere.

The innovators in the second cohort include: Richard Wang and Mauro Pasta with Cuberg. Richard Wang has worked as a graduate student under Prof. Yi Cui at Stanford University for the past four years and will graduate with his PhD in materials science and engineering in March 2016. Previously, he worked at the Cell Research Lab at Tesla Motors to study the interfacial degradation mechanisms of lithium-ion batteries. He brings leadership experience from managing a team of over 15 students over two years in the SCI-Arc/Caltech Solar Decathlon team and advising the Stanford Solar Decathlon team to compete in the DOE’s solar-powered house competition. He also holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Caltech.

Mauro Pasta is currently an associate professor in the Department of Materials at the University of Oxford. He also holds a tutorial fellowship at St. Edmund Hall. Previously, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University under Prof. Yi Cui. His work at Stanford helped found Alveo Energy, a startup working on a new battery technology for grid applications, obtaining $4M from ARPA-E OPEN in 2012. Before joining Stanford he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Electrochemical Sciences of Ruhr University-Bochum. He received his PhD in industrial chemistry from the University of Milan in 2010.

Colin Bailie with Iris PV; Colin Bailie earned a Ph.D in materials science from Stanford University in January 2016, where he is currently a postdoctoral researcher. In his graduate work, he published seminal papers on perovskite tandem solar cells with his academic adviser Michael McGehee. Colin has won numerous awards for his graduate work and efforts to commercialize this technology, most recently being named to the Forbes 30 under 30 in Energy and to the inaugural Slavin fellowship. He also holds a B.S in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University.

Peter Frischmann with Sepion; Peter Frischmann has devoted the last 10 years to advanced materials R&D and has leveraged his expertise to next-generation energy storage technologies for the last 5 years. His background in self-assembly and hybrid organic/inorganic materials design places him outside the battery materials establishment, leaving him with an unique vantage point to tackle long-standing energy storage problems with innovative solutions capable of disrupting the status quo. He was an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Würzburg and holds a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of British Columbia and a B.Sc. in chemistry from Idaho State University.

Andrew Hsieh and Barry van Tassel with Feasible; Andrew Hsieh is an expert in electrochemistry, materials science, and characterization. During his Ph.D., Andrew developed novel graphene-TiO2 anodes for Li-ion batteries. As a postdoc, Andrew led two ARPA-E funded projects and co-invented Feasible’s ultrasonic battery analysis technology. Andrew holds a Ph.D. in chemical and materials engineering from Princeton University and a B.S. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from UCLA.

Barry Van Tassell is an expert in hardware-software interfaces. During his Ph.D, he designed and built automated systems for materials synthesis and reactive spray deposition of uniform, large-area electrodes for batteries and capacitors. He has also built automated rigs for electrochemical testing and custom software for image and data analysis. At Feasible, he designs, builds, and tests the hardware and control software used in acoustic testing. He holds a Ph.D. from The City College of New York and a B.S. from the University of Buffalo, both in chemical engineering.

“When we started Cyclotron Road less than two years ago, it was an experiment. Now with the second cohort and significant external funding, the concept has been firmly established,” said Berkeley Lab Deputy Director Horst Simon. “As the quality and range of applications in the second cohort show, Cyclotron Road has closed a gap in our spectrum of tools for energy technology innovation.”

Cyclotron Road recruits entrepreneurial researchers and embeds them at Berkeley Lab for up to two years in a mentored technology entrepreneurship program. During that time, the program guides its cohort members as they work to achieve focused technology development objectives in a discrete period of time to facilitate the transition from lab to market.

Nine new members make up the new cohort, coming from as far away as New York and Oxford, England and all are first time entrepreneurs. While some recently received their Ph.Ds., others have spent more time in industry, giving the cohort a broad spectrum of experience.

“The United States needs a whole new generation of technology entrepreneurs to lead the way in building the global clean energy economy. But as venture capital investment in clean tech has dropped significantly in recent years, I fear that this generation’s brilliant minds may seek opportunity in other industries even at this critical moment for the clean energy sector,” said David Danielson, Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). “Cyclotron Road is a critical new DOE supported platform upon which game changing new clean energy startups can be built. Its first cohort participants are already showing tremendous success, with two projects in the program already having been awarded funding for their ideas by ARPA-E. With the program’s second cohort we are announcing today, EERE and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab are already building on an exciting track record of success.”

After just one year of funding from EERE, the first cohort of innovators made tremendous technical progress, attracting nearly $5 million in follow-on funding through competitive grants and private investments, and avoiding millions more in R&D capital expenditures. Over that time, they have worked closely with more than 20 Berkeley Lab scientists.

“We’re thrilled to begin supporting these innovators here at Berkeley Lab,” said Cyclotron Road director Ilan Gur. “We’ve been incredibly impressed with the progress our first cohort has made over the past year and look forward to working with the second cohort to drive their technologies forward.”

The second cohort was selected after a nationwide call for applications followed by a rigorous four-month selection process. They are expected to begin work embedded at Berkeley Lab in May of this year.