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Spotlight on Innovation

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Storage: The Key to Clean Energy’s Future

As the energy and transportation sectors of the United States economy begin to show signs of renewal and transformation, how to store energy better remains an important national issue. U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, testifying before the Senate in early 2010, focused on the need to create the storage that can support an advanced energy grid, renewable power, and electric vehicles.

ARPA-E, the DOE’s advanced research project for energy, is devoting more than $400 million in grants to the development of energy technologies, including the batteries needed for storage of electrical energy. In March 2011, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced a research partnership with ARPA-E. “One of the things that holds us back is our [in]ability to store energy,” Mabus told the 2011 MIT Energy Conference in his keynote address.

Improvements in Solid-State Batteries

the technology of choice for today’s hybrid and electrical vehicles. There are, however, a number of limitations to the technology, such as the length of the battery life. Many battery experts believe that batteries of the future will ultimately be solid state, but today’s solid-state batteries are prohibitively expensive to manufacture.

“Using [existing manufacturing] processes could cost as much as a thousand times more” than the equivalent li-ion batteries, says entrepreneur Scott Faris, founder of Orlando, FL-based Planar Energy. “The process is slow, and it’s historically only been used for very small surface areas.”

Planar Energy recently won a $4 million Department of Energy award under ARPA-E to develop and manufacture the company’s new solid-state batteries, which Faris says can be made for half the cost of the current li-ion technology and offer triple the performance.

Flat Power

On February 14, MasterCard and Symantec Corporation announced a new credit card for the U.S. market with advanced security features. Existing card security relies on short numeric codes, but that number, like the card number itself, can be easily stolen and used for internet purchases. The new cards feature a display that generates single-use passwords.

The card’s new display and mini electronic system is supported by Lakeland, FL -based Solicore’s paper-thin battery technology.

Solicore was founded in 2001, and its founders quickly noticed that the market needed new technology to power displays like those on credit cards. But no existing product was thin and flexible enough to be embedded into a card.

With the help of a team of battery experts, company researchers developed a lithium battery where the anode and cathode are separated by a (proprietary) thin layer. “It’s coated on, and it looks as if it’s solid, but it can bend and flex,” says Dave Eagleson, vice president of sales. This technology was first used in credit cards in Europe and Asia. The new MasterCard is the first major card in the United States to offer the single-use security coding powered by Solicore’s thin, flexible battery.

Betavoltaic Batteries

Current chemical batteries have a number of limitations, including their short lifespan and the limited range of temperatures and pressures at which they can function. Peter Cabauy of City Labs Inc. in Homestead, FL, discovered these limitations when he and his cofounders looked into starting a new technology company in south Florida.

Founded in 2005 and first housed within Florida International University’s technology incubator, City Labs originally partnered with Lockheed Martin Florida to develop betavoltaic batteries. Like photovoltaic cells, betavoltaic batteries absorb radiation, but instead of sunlight, the radiation comes from a physical source that emits electrons.

City Labs focused on tritium as a radiation source, as tritium—one of the most benign radioisotopes—is already used to power the phosphorescent glow in the watches used by divers and in exit signs (though the signs are not battery powered). In December 2010, the company was awarded a contract worth nearly $1 million from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory for its tritium-based batteries.

Download the Storage white paper to learn more about
  • - battery-powered bandages;
  • - advancing CPR through batteries; and
  • - a new generation of fuel cells

Florida Cleantech Videos

Cleantech articles from technology review

A Clean Energy Generation by Hemant Taneja and David Danielson

A Clean Energy Generation by Hemant Taneja and David Danielson

In a whirlwind legislative session ending last Thursday, July 31, 2008, Massachusetts legislative leaders have launched the most comprehensive and forward-thinking set of clean-energy policies in the nation. They will allow the state to move rapidly toward a low-cost, secure, environmentally ...

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Vinod Khosla: A veteran venture capitalist's new energy.

Vinod Khosla: A veteran venture capitalist's new energy.

For many years a partner at the blue-blooded venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins ­Caufield and Byers, Vinod Khosla has been called the best venture capitalist in the world by both Forbes and Red­Herring magazines.

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Bright Days for Solar: New investment fuels promising energy research at MIT.

Bright Days for Solar: New investment fuels promising energy research at MIT.

When Tonio Buonassisi finished his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2006, he wanted out of academia. He had a mission: to cover the world's roofs with solar panels that would provide clean, carbon-free electricity.

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Storage White Paper

The ARPA-E is devoting more than $400 million in grants to the development of energy technologies, including the batteries needed for storage of electrical energy. Learn about new and improved energy storage technologies.
Download »

Smart Grid White Paper
Greentech Media analysts expect the smart grid to grow from a $5.6 billion market in 2010 to $9.6 billion in 2015. Learn how this market will grow in each of the four key submarket segments.
Download »

Clean Energy in Florida

Market Brief

Florida holds tremendous possibility for the clean energy industry. For an in-depth look at the state's capabilities, register to download this 16-page clean energy overview.
Register to Download »

Florida’s Clean Energy News

Biofuels Feature

Fueling the 21st Century

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy announced more than $600 million in grants for 15 projects that are developing the next generation of biofuels. These grants demonstrate the Obama administration’s interest in rapidly moving biofuels—alternatives to corn-based ethanol—through the pilot and demonstration stages and into commercial production

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Clean Energy Feature

Clean Energy

As the energy debate rages in political and scientific circles, investment in clean energy technologies continues to rise. Clean Energy Trends 2008, published by research firm Clean Edge, estimates that fuel cells, solar PV, wind energy, and biofuels — a combined $77.3 billion market in 2007 — will increase to $254.5 billion (or 229 percent) within a decade.

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Technology Review Videos

Intensifying the Sun

Intensifying the Sun
Jon Mapel, cofounder of Covalent Solar, explains how its technology works.

More-Powerful Fuel Cells

Fuel Cells

A cheap polymer material increases the power output of methanol fuel cells by 50%.

An Electrifying Startup

An Electrifying Startup
A new lithium-ion battery could help electric cars and hybrids dominate the roads.

A Better Solar Collector

A Better Solar Collector
Jonathan Mapel, cofounder of Covalent Solar, based in Cambridge, MA, uses commonly available plastic sheets to illustrate how a new solar concentrator works. He then shows a prototype of the new solar concentrator, which features advanced dyes that make it highly efficient.

Solar Sailing in Space

Solar Sailing in Space
NASA’s Dean Alhorn, lead engineer for the NanoSail-D satellite, demonstrates how the spacecraft will deploy its solar sail in space.

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