Rocket Fund / Our Awardees / 2021 Awardees
- AeroShield Materials, Inc., an MIT spin-out, makes a super-insulating, transparent silica aerogel for mitigating what the DOE estimates is a $40B (30% of heating and cooling energy) annual energy loss through windows. Inserted between two panes of glass and replacing the gas-fill in a double-paned window, the technology delivers 50% more insulating and energy-efficiency, with a payback period 5 times faster than windows of similar performance. The material maintains glass-like optical clarity that is superior to other silica aerogel solutions. The Rocket Fund award will support window industry standard testing for U-Value, transmissivity, and haze at a qualified facility, the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs' Mobile Window Thermal Test Facility. Such testing is needed to engage customers (large insulated glass and window manufacturers) in pilots and co-development agreements.
- Brimstone Energy, Inc., an early venture founded by Caltech Ph.D. graduate Cody Finke, produces low cost, ordinary Portland cement (OPC) and supplemental cementitious materials (SCM) through a novel chemical process that is carbon negative. The production of cement is responsible for 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and the industry is an important target for green manufacturing solutions. Brimstone's process starts with calcium silicate rock, not limestone, as the raw material and not only does not generate CO2 but also produces magnesium hydroxide as a waste product that directly absorbs CO2 from the air. The resulting magnesium carbonate is a material that permanently sequesters CO2. The process is net carbon negative regardless of the energy source – fossil or renewable. The Rocket Fund grant will support scaling up a leaching reactor to produce samples of silica fume, a valuable SCM, for commercial testing and customer validation prior to make a buying decision. If successful, the Rocket Fund award will be key in securing Brimstone's first customer.
- Induction Food Systems, a Techstars backed company, helps manufacturers in the process industries improve productivity and decarbonize their operations with innovative on-demand precision heating equipment. With electromagnetic induction energy driving the technology the core innovation shifts heating industrial fluids from outside to inside the line. This creates a scalable, precise, and efficient heating solution for a wide range of fluids, from food to fuels. IFS' in-line heating platform unlocks productivity by heating up to 24x faster with 10x the precision. This technology displaces boilers and their combustion emissions, with smart, sustainable solutions while using 3 – 5x less energy. Support from the Rocket Fund will cover engineering costs for optimizing the internal induction heat applicator for a scaled system, and fabricating two customized heat applicators for inclusion in a scaled demonstration system with partner equipment manufacturers.
- NeoCharge, Inc., innovator of the Smart Splitter for home EV charging, is developing a mobile app to further unlock an EV driver's ability to track charging and charge at the most optimal times. The Smart Splitter enables homeowners and renters to share a 240-volt outlet with two EV's, an appliance and an EV, or even two appliances, without paying for expensive panel upgrades. The Smart Splitters' intelligent sensing manages power between two devices without overloading circuits in the home. The Rocket Fund award will support the development of a mobile app to enable in-depth charging insights for Smart Splitter customers.
- RePurpose Energy, Inc., a venture based on UC Davis research innovations, reuses EV batteries as "second-life" energy storage systems to take advantage of the 70%+ capacity remaining after the batteries' useful life in EV vehicles has expired. The technology precisely measures EV battery health in <90 seconds using machine learning, then optimizes battery reassembly into new circuits to maximize safety, efficiency, and longevity. Finally, proprietary controls and fire suppression systems will ensure used EV batteries will operate safely for 7+ years as a "second-life" solution at a 30%+ installed price advantage over new battery alternatives. The Rocket Fund award will enable the purchase of critical parts and equipment for deployment of a minimum commercial product (MCP) at a community-owned grocery store, plus support for UL Certification, another key step towards technology commercialization. Third-party measurement and validation of MCP benefits will demonstrate a robust cost advantage over new battery alternatives, 24/7 power resiliency, and decreased electricity bills - all important value propositions for its early customers.
- Sensible Storage, (now Stow Energy), an Otherlab, Inc. spinout, is developing an intelligent heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system incorporating thermal energy storage. Paired with distributed sources of renewable power the technology cost-effectively heats, cools, and provides domestic hot water to residential and small commercial buildings. The air-to-water heat pump generates thermal energy that is stored in highly insulated storage "cubes." Thermal energy is then distributed into the home using the existing hydronic or forced air ducting. Intelligent software creates a unique building profile and predicts its demand. The heat pump operating times are then optimized for performance efficiency, low utility rates, CO2 reduction, and grid-balancing demand response events, without changing the customer HVAC experience. The Rocket Fund award will fund the installation of a system in a test home that will create a case study for future customers, and a template for utility engagement.
- Verne, Inc., a company founded by Stanford and UC Berkeley graduates, is developing cryo-compressed storage, an alternative method for storing hydrogen fuel for trucks, ships and planes. Applying the technology achieves the ultra-high energy capacity that will enable such long-haul, large vehicles to store the required capacity to travel full routes, while avoiding the inefficiencies, costs, and infrastructure limitations of alternative methods. Verne aims to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen as a transport fuel by achieving performance requirements at competitive prices and reducing a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The Rocket Fund grant will support building units for an on the road demonstration that if successful, will inform a pilot agreement with a potential truck manufacturer.