Cyclotron Road Fellows Awarded More Than $6 Million in Dept. of Energy Funding

Antora Energy, Fervo Energy, Mosaic Materials and Visolis—four startups founded by Cyclotron Road fellows and alumni—have been awarded more than $6 million in funding from a pair of Department of Energy offices as well as from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (APRA-E) this month. These companies are commercializing innovations in the advanced materials, chemical, energy storage, and geothermal energy sectors.

 The Antora Energy team.

The Antora Energy team.

Antora Energy is developing a new approach to energy storage based on the beneficial reuse of waste carbon-rich material and thermophotovoltaic energy conversion. The company, led by Cohort Four fellows Andrew Ponec and Justin Briggs, and Cohort Three fellow David Bierman, has secured a $3 million award as part of APRA-E’s Duration Addition to electricitY Storage (DAYS) program to support technologies with potential to add 10 to 100 hours of energy storage to the electricity grid.

“This award will accelerate our development, substantially reducing the time to reach market,” said Briggs. “We will use this award to mitigate the remaining science and technology risks standing between us and commercialization.”

As part of its efforts to advance early-stage bioenergy research and development, the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), awarded $80 million, through its Bioenergy Technologies Office, to 36 projects—both academic research teams and commercial operators.

 Deepak Dugar

Deepak Dugar

Visolis, led by Cohort One fellow Deepak Dugar, uses advanced bioengineering to create bio-based, carbon-neutral chemicals. It received nearly $2 million to develop an integrated biorefinery for chemicals and fuels production, using waste biomass as a feedstock.

Mosaic Materials, founded by Tom McDonald, another Cohort One fellow, is reducing the cost and environmental impact of fossil fuels through an innovative energy-efficient gas separation process. It won $1.4 million to create a high-efficiency process for refining biogas into biomethane, also known as renewable natural gas.

 Tom McDonald, left

Tom McDonald, left

These awards support the Bioenergy Technologies Office goals of advancing cost-competitive, drop-in renewable hydrocarbon fuels, bio-based products, and power from non-food biomass and waste feedstocks. The program also aims to bring costs of bio-based drop-in fuels down to $3/gallon by 2022.

The Geothermal Technologies Office, also within EERE, has awarded nearly $4.45 million to four projects supporting early-stage research and development of tools and technologies for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The agency is seeking improved performance and cost-effectiveness of EGS through research in zonal isolation. Fervo Energy, founded by Cohort Four fellows Tim Latimer and Jack Norbeck is among the awardees. It is collaborating with Schlumberger, a provider of drilling and well services, to upgrade its proven zonal isolation technology with high-temperature components (elastomers) to enable deployment in geothermal environments.

 Jack Norbeck and Tim Latimer

Jack Norbeck and Tim Latimer

At some geothermal sites, due to insufficient fluids or conductive pathways through which heat can travel to the surface, the potential for deriving power is limited. EGS use manmade geothermal reservoirs designed to address those limitations by injecting fluids from the surface and enhancing pathways for heat collection. According to the Department of Energy, EGS technologies could lead to more than 100 gigawatts (GWs) of economically viable, electric generating capacity in the continental United State—more than 25x current production.