This month, the U.S. Department of Energy crowned the 2013 winner of its Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The top spot went to SiNode Systems from Northwestern University, with its advanced anode technology. Their business plan centers on their innovative in lithium battery Si-graphene composite anode technology, which uses a composite of silicon nano-particles and porous graphene to not only increase charge capacity but also increase charge times. In short, this technology has the potential to increase battery performance by increasing its energy capacity by 50 to 100 percent.

This win was an exciting step in a story of achieving success after a rocky beginning. Last year, after failing to place in two significant business competitions, SiNode re-committed themselves to achieving their business dreams. Subsequently, they able to secure a DOE Small Business Innovation Research grant. They then dedicated themselves to shining at the 2013 Rice Business Plan Competition. And, last week, they swept the national competition.

Between the grant and these business competitions, SiNode Systems has been awarded significant funding (more than $800,000 total) plus valuable support in the form of technical, marketing, and legal assistance.

SiNode system competed with five other 2013 regional Clean Energy Business Plan competition winners, including:

  1. Bioadhesive Alliance Inc.– this company’s PiGrid technology is made from hog waste and can replace petroleum-based asphalt binders (from North Carolina A&T University, winner of the Southeastern Region – ACC Clean Energy Challenge run by University of Maryland)
  2. Bearing Analytics – this company’s technology offers temperature and vibration sensing capabilities to wind turbine stakeholders. These capabilities can be used to predict bearing failure, extending wind turbine lifetimes and reducing the costs associated with gearbox failures (from Purdue University, winner of the Eastern Midwest Region – Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge run by Clean Energy Trust)
  3. Invironment – this company wants to use their patent-pending PlasTek technology to help plastic in landfills to decompose more rapidly. They estimate that this will increase landfill capacity by 13-20%, while also producing enough methan to power thousands of homes (from Brigham Young University, winner of the Western Midwest Region – CU Cleantech New Ventures Challenge run by University of Colorado-Boulder)
  4. Picasolar – this company uses a new hydrogen selective emitter (HSE) technology to “fix flaws in silicon solar cells” for an out the door cost of <$0.01. By improving the electrical connection between layers in the solar cell, this technology can increase cell efficiency and decrease electricity generation costs(from University of Arkansas, winner of the Northeast Region – MIT Clean Energy Prize run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  5. Pyro-E - this company proposes using a solid state device that can convert waste heat (for example, from fuel cell servers, industrial furnaces, and automobile exhaust) into electricity in order to increase efficiency and reduce fuel costs. (from University of California Berkeley, winner of the Western Region – First Look West run by California Institute of Technology)

Photo credit:

1. Photo of SiNode team (Cory Hayner, Thomas Yu, Joshua Lao, Nishit Mehta, Samie Meyekar, and Guy Peterson), DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson (center), and DOE business plan coordinator, Jennifer Garson (right) courtesy of the US DOE.