Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — Alphabet Energy, a startup whose patented thermoelectric technology from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory converts waste heat into electricity, has secured both a government grant from the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program as well as separate grants from the U.S. Army and Air Force. The funds, totaling $320K, enable Alphabet Energy to advance development of its low-cost thermoelectric waste-heat recovery technology, which will be used to recapture energy wasted in countless scenarios, ranging from automobile exhaust to metal and plastic production plants.
The grant money from the DoE, Army, and Air Force complements private funding previously raised by the company. The awards represent the growing recognition—at the highest levels of energy and technology policy—of waste heat as a valuable resource in a wide range of industrial sectors. Alphabet Energy sees waste heat as one of the most important sources of clean power this century, and is developing partnerships with some of the largest consumers of energy in the world.
“We’re thrilled to have the support and recognition of the US departments of Energy and Defense, who have both been long-time supporters of thermoelectric technology and of waste-heat recovery. These grants place us one step closer to our goal of profitably turning waste heat into electricity, thereby harnessing one of the modern world’s most abundant, untapped resources,” said Matt Scullin, founder & CEO of Alphabet Energy. “Waste heat is ubiquitous and is one of the very few resources that is actually expanding. Alphabet Energy’s technology represents a cost-effective, sustainable and highly practical approach to electricity generation, with one of the lowest levelized costs of electricity of any generation method—including coal and nuclear.”
Alphabet Energy tackles a large and growing problem. For every kilowatt of power produced, there is an associated percentage of waste heat that escapes into the atmosphere. Two-thirds of the energy produced at power plants is wasted as heat, and every heavy industrial process that involves heat also wastes staggering amounts of energy. In the United States, this wasted heat represents four times the energy output of all the nation’s coal-fired power plants, and a significant fraction of it could be converted into electricity with the appropriate technology.
Technologies that can recover waste heat at 10 percent efficiency could generate electricity valued at $50 billion in the U.S., and $200 billion worldwide. Until now, technology to turn waste heat into electricity has been prohibitively expensive to deploy; Alphabet Energy’s approach breaks through this cost barrier with a revolutionary, low-cost approach to the materials and manufacturing of thermoelectrics.
Alphabet Energy’s thermoelectric waste-heat recovery technology can be 100 times cheaper than existing approaches. It is based on intellectual property exclusively licensed from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and developed there by its founding team, which includes Prof. Peidong Yang and Berkeley Ph.D./entrepreneur Matthew L. Scullin. It generates clean electricity using abundant and non-toxic materials, and is more cost-efficient than solar, wind, geothermal and other thermoelectric energy-recovery techniques. Furthermore, electricity from waste heat is well matched to grid loads—in other words, it is produced when needed, meaning similar grid infrastructure upgrades commonly associated with solar and wind are not necessary.
Thermoelectric technology is compact and easy to install, making it attractive for use in mobile applications such as the conversion of automobile exhaust into electricity, which has been successfully demonstrated in prototypes developed by BMW and GM. Due its low cost, thermoelectric technology can offer similar value over thermodynamic systems in stationary applications, with their relatively small physical footprints and simplified installation and engineering. Alphabet’s low-cost approach is the first with the ability to scale beyond small prototypes, and so can be applied to large industrial and power generation waste-heat recovery.
Relevant web resources Alphabet Energy website – blog – Twitter: @alphabetenergy
About Alphabet Energy Inc. Alphabet Energy is commercializing a breakthrough, inexpensive waste-heat recovery technology developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California by its founders. With it, we will be able to tap into the US$1 trillion potential world market for the conversion of waste heat into electricity, with the ability to offset as much as 500 million metric tonnes of carbon per year. With a team of top scientists and entrepreneurs from U.C. Berkeley, Alphabet Energy won four awards at the 2009 Cleantech Open Business Competition: runner-up, National Prize; winner, National People’s Choice Award; winner, California region Energy-Efficiency Prize; winner, California region Sustainability Prize. For more information, visit alphabetenergy.com and follow @alphabetenergy on Twitter.
Alphabet Energy Inc.