July marks beginning of Thomas Zacharia’s new role as ORNL director

Thomas Zacharia, who built Oak Ridge National Laboratory into a global supercomputing power, has been selected as the laboratory’s next director by UT-Battelle, the partnership that operates ORNL for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The UT-Battelle board conducted an open, competitive search for a new director after Thom Mason announced he would be leaving to join Battelle after 10 years leading ORNL. Among the goals Zacharia outlined if he were chosen as director: leading ORNL to be the world’s premier research institution; building on the lab’s original sense of mission – winning World War II while pushing the boundaries of research – to reshape its creative energy for the future; celebrating a science and technology culture that encourages individuals to be the best in their fields; and pursuing institutional excellence that advances US leadership in neutron science, computing, materials, and nuclear science and engineering.

Thomas Zacharia (Credit: ORNL)

Zacharia’s appointment as director became effective July 1, after Mason was appointed senior vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle in Columbus, Ohio.

“Thomas has a compelling vision for the future of ORNL that is directly aligned with the U.S. Department of Energy’s strategic priorities,” said Joe DiPietro, chair of the UT-Battelle Board of Governors and president of the University of Tennessee.

Zacharia came to ORNL in 1987 as a postdoctoral researcher after receiving his Ph.D. in engineering science from Clarkson University in New York. He also holds a master’s in materials science from the University of Mississippi and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology in Karnataka, India.

When UT-Battelle became ORNL’s management and operating contractor in April 2000, Zacharia was director of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division. In 2001, he was named associate laboratory director for the new Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate, and over the next eight years he built a scientific enterprise that brought more than 500 new staff to Oak Ridge and opened the nation’s largest unclassified scientific computing center, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a user facility of DOE’s Office of Science.

Zacharia was named ORNL’s deputy for science and technology in 2009, responsible for the lab’s entire research and development portfolio. During his tenure, the lab has strengthened its translational energy programs, establishing the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate and the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate.

In 2012, Zacharia took a leave to serve as executive vice president of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, overseeing research in energy and the environment, information and computing technology, life sciences and biomedical research, and social sciences, as well as leading the country’s science and technology park, which is home to more than 40 multi-national companies including GE, Microsoft and Siemens. He returned to ORNL in 2015, where he previously served as Deputy Lab Director for Science and Technology.

Knoxville welcomes Innovation Crossroads’ innovators to East Tennessee

The Knoxville Chamber was a packed house Tuesday when the Innovation Crossroads’ innovators pitched their startup before Knoxville’s entrepreneurial community during an Innov865 Happy Hour.

Dozens came out to see the cleantech companies present their next-generation ideas solving global energy challenges.

Innovation Crossroads is a program based at ORNL that matches aspiring energy entrepreneurs with the experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take their world-changing ideas from R&D to the marketplace.

Several entrepreneurs were selected to transform their ideas into clean energy companies with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Innovators receive a fellowship that covers living costs, benefits and a travel stipend for up to two years, plus up to $350,000 to use on collaborative research and development at ORNL.

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and Launch Tennessee provide non-exclusive business mentoring services to the Innovation Crossroads innovators.

The crowd heard from Mitchell Ishmael of Active Energy Systems first. Ishmael is utilizing a saltwater material to store electricity as thermal energy. The method provides a much cheaper alternative to providing onsite backup power for customers than standby generators or batteries. It is expected to encourage the installation of more distributed, renewable power generation.

Ishmael explained how energy storage is still high cost and low efficiency and the resources available to him in East Tennessee could help change that.

“Innovation Crossroads is providing us all a leg up already,” said Ishmael.

Anna Douglas of SkyNano Technologies presented her pitch next. Douglas’ technology utilizes carbon dioxide as feedstock to significantly lower the production cost of carbon nanotubes. The process provides a use for captured greenhouse gases while benefiting clean energy technologies and advanced manufacturing.

“SkyNano Technologies has made immense progress with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and my company has benefited from the lab’s community connections,” said Douglas.

Finally, the crowd heard from Matthew Ellis and Samuel Shaner of Yellowstone Energy. The two are developing an advanced nuclear reactor with the potential for faster installation while optimizing safety in order to provide a clean source of baseload electricity. The design uses an already licensed uranium fuel with an ambient pressure, high temperature coolant.

“Yellowstone Energy’s solution delivers lower cost, advanced nuclear sooner,” said Ellis.

Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development at ORNL, stressed to the audience afterwards that applications are still open for Startup Day 2017 pitch competition.

Interested East Tennessee startups have until July 10, 2017 to apply to pitch their business on the U.S. Cellular Stage at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville. New this year, the Startup Day pitch competition will feature two prize categories: judges’ choice and crowd favorite. Competitors will have an opportunity to win up to $15,000.

One Scientific moving forward with its disruptive technology

(NOTE: This article was originally published on Teknovation.biz)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

When you are involved in a disruptive technology that will potentially change the world, one of the greatest challenges is determining where to start.

That’s certainly the case with One Scientific Inc., a Johnson City-based clean tech start-up that has been the subject of several previous articles in teknovation.biz including this initial overview. We caught-up with Jon Barnwell, Co-Founder and Vice President, during a recent visit to Northeast Tennessee.

“One of our biggest challenges has been identifying where we fit into the evolving energy space,” he told us. “We can produce two energy carriers – hydrogen and electricity – with ultra-high efficiency.”

The question becomes what customer segment has the greatest pain and opportunity to gain? It’s a long list, and Barnwell says there is potential to serve them all.

One Scientific is commercializing multiple technologies including a 40-year old cost-effective method for generating renewable hydrogen anywhere in the world where there is access to water. Conceived and built in the 1970s by Michael Redwine, company Founder, the technology is ready for broad commercialization now that One Scientific has combined with another proprietary technology, a new hydrogen fuel cell, which will work to address previous safety concerns.

Yet, the widespread adoption of hydrogen as a mainstream energy carrier has not yet occurred, because it has been expensive to produce and convert to a useful form of energy.

Barnwell underscored that challenge by noting that there are less than 1,000 fuel cell vehicles on the road, most of which are in California. “But that’s about to change,” he says.

At the 2016 “California Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Summit,” stakeholders met to discuss unprecedented attention and activity in the use of hydrogen and fuel cells along with ongoing challenges. Honda Motors proposed that three key developments need to happen for broad consumer adoption of fuel cell vehicles.

Read the full story here.

Advanced Energy Now 2016 Market Report Announces Advanced Energy Markets Are Bigger Than Ever

The future looks bright indeed for advanced energy markets. According to the recently released Advanced Energy Now 2016 Market Report, prepared for AEE Navigant Research, advanced energy is a $1.4 trillion global industry, as big as fashion, twice the size of airlines, and close to worldwide spending on media and entertainment.

USAEvsAirlinesPharmaConsumerElectThe report further states that the U.S. advanced energy market is now $200 billion, more than pharmaceutical manufacturing, and approaching wholesale consumer electronics. Energy sector growth highlighted in the report includes: Solar PV revenue grew 21% over last year, wind was up 75%, building efficiency grew 11%, and energy storage multiplied over 10 times year-to-year.

This is the fourth annual report of market size, by revenue, of the advanced energy industry, worldwide and in the United States and is the most comprehensive assessment of advanced energy markets compiled to date. The report includes five years of revenue, starting with 2011. Highlights from the U.S. market include:

  • Building Efficiency is the largest advanced energy market segment, with $63.6 billion in revenue and 50% growth over 2011, counting only products for which we have all five years of data.
  • Solar continues to be a dynamic growth story in the U.S. Even as costs have declined by nearly 50%, revenue from Solar PV reached$22.6 billion, up 21% over last year and nearly triple 2011 revenue.
  • Wind showed strong growth for the second year in a row, continuing to climb back from a low point in 2013 to reach $14.4 billion in 2015, up 75% over last year.
  • At $734 million, revenue from Energy Storage grew 12 times over 2014. This game-changing technology can provide grid support services, meet peak demand needs, and store variable renewable energy generation until it’s needed.
  • Ethanol revenue declined by a third over last year. The price of ethanol in the United States tends to follow the price of gasoline. Historically low oil prices brought Ethanol revenue from $40.9 billion in 2014 to $27.3 billion in 2015.
  • Revenue from Plug-in Electric Vehicles in 2015 grew seven times over 2011. At nearly $5 billion, revenue from PEVs in 2015 was nearly half that of hybrids, a more established class of advanced vehicle.

Download your free copy today here.

Hybrid Battery from ORNL Reduces Corrosion, Contributes to Grid Efforts

The nation’s commitment to grid modernization continues to pick up speed, with significant advancements being made in East Tennessee. On the heels of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) announcement of a commitment to $200 million for more than 80 projects to modernize America’s grid, TAEBC Charter member, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) introduced earlier in February a new approach to batteries that shows significant promise for grid usage.

Credit: ORNL

Credit: ORNL

ORNL’s battery approach uses inexpensive and plentiful aluminum and lithium – containing cathodes to increase capacity, cycling performance, and safety. According to ORNL’s release, the hybrid battery uses aluminum as the anode – a negative electrode – instead of lithium or graphite. It also uses a new cell design that significantly reduces the problem of corrosion caused by the strong acidic nature of electrodes.

All of this research work, published in the journal Chemical Communications, results in a battery that potentially offers alternative energy storage devices for multiple applications at a lower cost.

That’s good news for the nation’s progress toward grid modernization. ORNL is expected to be involved in more than 25 of DOE’s 80 funded grid projects, with the scope of work to include transformer research, analysis, and testing.

Grid modernization efforts explore the concept of microgrids, a localized group of electricity sources and loads that can disconnect and function on their own, separate from a traditional centralized grid.

Microgrids continue to be researched and investigated in Tennessee, both for their ability to function autonomously and for their capacity to operate as economic conditions warrant. Modernizing the nation’s grid remains a high priority for DOE with DC stating that the “grid is essential to reducing carbon emissions, creating safeguards against attacks on infrastructure, and keeping the lights on.”

DOE says increased funding is being made available to further strengthen ongoing efforts to improve electrical infrastructure in order to respond to the nation’s energy needs for decades to come.

As progress continues to be announced about grid modernization efforts, TAEBC will keep members updated on the latest from ORNL and DOE.