Berkeley Lab Technology Spawns Successful Start-up Companies

October 12, 2010  source: AZnanotechnology the A-Z of Nanotchnology

What do a smart window company, a microbial analysis start-up and waste-heat recovery start-up have in common? They’re all located in the San Francisco Bay Area and they’re all based on technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory….

Alphabet Energy is another start-up that has seen tremendous investor and market interest in a short amount of time. Founded in 2009, the San Francisco-based start-up licensed a breakthrough technology from Berkeley Lab that can inexpensively convert heat to electricity. Alphabet plans to use the new thermoelectric material, created through nanotechnology, for waste heat recovery, a potentially multi-billion-dollar market.

Nearly two-thirds of all the energy produced in the world is lost as heat. More than half the energy in a gallon of gas leaves automobiles as waste heat. Waste heat is a free source of energy that is almost wholly unused today because large-scale waste heat recovery has not been feasible. Converting waste heat to electricity could offset as much as 500 million metric tons of carbon per year that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

“The inquiries are pouring in,” said CEO Matthew Scullin. “There’s been an enormous amount of interest from the investment community, from potential customers and also from supply chain customers who can benefit from the sale and installation of waste heat recovery systems.”

Scullin, who also co-founded company, said potential customers that have expressed interest include heat exchange companies and companies that make aluminum, glass, cement, steel, automobiles and aircraft, as well as the military. The technology was invented by scientist Peidong Yang and others in his lab; Yang is also a company co-founder.

Alphabet has raised $1 million in seed funding from Claremont Creek Ventures and the CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund. Currently with eight employees, the company has developed a working prototype and hopes to install a pilot plant by the end of 2011. “By the middle of next year we’ll be hiring again,” Scullin said.”