Spark Thermionics and polySpectra win ARPA-E OPEN funding as part of projects totaling over $7 million

We're excited to announce that Cyclotron Road projects Spark Thermionics and Polyspectra have both been selected for negotiations as awardees for the 2015 Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) OPEN award. The award to Spark Thermionics will fund a newly formed spin out company collaborating with Berkeley Lab and Stanford University, along with several additional partners. ARPA-E OPEN awards are granted to support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications. Congratulations to both of these teams!

Spark Thermionics, led by Daniel Riley and Jared Schwede, was awarded to develop a transformative heat-to-electricity device based on thermionic energy conversion. If successful, this new class of thermionic converters could dramatically increase power conversion efficiency in the US by acting as a topping cycle in series with conventional heat engines, or as a stand-alone converter for a wide range of applications, from combined heat-and-power (CHP) to scavenging waste heat in automotive and industrial applications. The $3.636 million project is a collaboration between Riley and Schwede's startup Spark Thermionics, Berkeley Lab, Stanford University (which led the proposal), U.C. Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

Riley and Schwede recently discussed their technology with Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "We are developing an entirely new type of generator that can produce power from any fuel source at high efficiency, in a quiet package that can scale from watts to megawatts," they said on the White House blog. "Our vision is that thermionic generators can displace conventional power production and help bring electricity to the more than one billion people around the world without reliable access to a centralized grid, while making our power system here at home cleaner, cheaper, and more secure."

Polyspectra, led by Raymond Weitekamp, was awarded to develop a commercially viable
infrared-reflective coating to retrofit inefficient windows in commercial and residential buildings. The coating can self-assemble into a photonic crystal that will reflect near-IR wavelengths but pass visible light, thus reducing solar heat gain for most windows. Applied as a simple, low-cost paint, this spectrally selective polymeric coating would present a disruptive solution for increasing building energy efficiency through thermal transport mitigation in windows. The $3.955 million project will be a collaboration between Berkeley Lab, proposal lead CU Boulder, Caltech, and Materia Inc. 

"Our team has been working on the core technology behind these paintable window films in an academic setting for several years," said Weitekamp. "We are thrilled to now be developing a commercially viable technology with this ARPA-E award."

Both teams are users at the Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry and will be leveraging strong collaborations with Berkeley Lab scientists to support their proposals, relationships developed while embedded at Cyclotron Road. Polyspectra, for example, will be working closely with Berkeley Lab scientists Arman Shehabi and Steve Selkowitz on cost modeling, technoeconomic analysis, and window testing. "We couldn't think of better collaborators to have than Steve and Arman, who are both leaders in modeling and testing energy efficiency solutions for buildings," said Weitekamp. "Their expertise offers the perfect complement to our chemistry, enabling us to rapidly iterate this technology toward industrially relevant solutions."