Winner number two, Umpqua Energy, is making good on clean burn engine tech developed at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. This technology tricks out your average gasoline engine in a way that allows it to operate in an extreme lean burn mode, increasing gasoline mileage. And while a lean burning engine, whether gas or diesel, tends to kick out a higher level of emissions as well, Umpqua expects to both increase fuel economy and reduce emissions with its system.
Winner number three is Vorbeck Materials, which is making use of a nanotech process first developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state to build better batteries. Specifically, better lithium ion batteries—the kind widely used in laptops and electric vehicles. Vorbeck is putting the laboratory’s method to work in in developing lithium air and lithium sulfur batteries that stores twice as much electricity at high charge and discharge rates as current lithium-ion batteries, and with a bigger capacity and a longer lifecycle.
The winning teams for this year’s competition won’t win any big cash prizes for their efforts, but they will be featured at a major annual gathering of clean energy investors and innovators from around the country—the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, at the end of February—where they’re likely to garner some significant backing.
As part of America’s Next Top Energy Innovator challenge, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cuts down on the cost and the red tape for startups wishing to obtain an option agreement to license patents and patent applications held through the department’s 17 national laboratories. Thirty-six companieshave signed these option agreements so far, and DOE has just announced another round of the competition for next year.