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New Advance in Energy Storage Wins Top Prize at FLoW


PASADENA, CA – May 19, 2015

Axiom Exergy, led by a Stanford University team, won the $75,000 First Place prize at the Fourth Annual First Look West (FLoW) Regional competition, with technology that could save the food industry millions of dollars in energy costs. Refrigerating food accounts for a substantial 55 per cent of the energy use in supermarkets. Axiom’s Refrigeration Battery™ “charges” by freezing tanks of salt water at night, when electricity is cheaper, and then it uses those frozen tanks to provide refrigeration throughout the day. The technology reduces energy costs and lowers the risk of food spoiling during power outages, potentially yielding cheaper and safer food for consumers.

Supermarkets are scrambling to maintain their razor-thin profit margins, and they spend a lot of money on their utility bills, so $20,000 in utility savings has the same effect on store profits as $1.4 million in additional sales of groceries. Axiom’s patent-pending Refrigeration Battery™ will save supermarkets as much as 20% a year in electricity costs and unknown dollars in food spoilage. Axiom Exergy is installing its first full-scale system at a supermarket in the Bay Area this year, and it has over $1 million in sales pipeline with a leading national supermarket chain.

Axiom’s advance was celebrated at an awards event held at the California Institute of Technology on May 6. Along with Second and Third Place winners NexTint, an electrochromic film company and Reebeez, a drone engine innovator, Axiom shared $100,000+ in prize money and start-up packages that include boot camp scholarships and legal support.

Early startup Obtainium took home the $5,000 Transformational Idea Award with a novel, pilot-scale reactor that converts CO2, along with water and electricity, into liquid fuels and chemicals that are cost-competitive with petroleum products. Sponsored by Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute the TIA rewards ground-breaking, pre-commercial research.

FLoW oversees the Western Region of the DOE’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition (NCEBPC) and is part of Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute. The awards event was the culmination of a six month competitive process, involving over 60 teams from 25 universities in 13 states, uncovering the untapped clean energy innovation in American university labs. The winning teams from five regions across the country will now participate in the National Competition in Washington D.C., June 24, 2015.

This year’s winners are:

  • First Place: Axiom Exergy. Axiom’s Refrigeration Battery TM is a thermal energy storage retrofit for central refrigeration systems in supermarkets and other refrigeration facilities. The Battery’s key components are 100% off-the-shelf but the company has patents pending on its unique system architecture, which can generate 4x more savings than old refrigeration thermal storage concepts, and the novel, non-invasive, fail-safe interface with central refrigeration systems.

  • Second Place: NexTint. The Bay area company is developing a dimmable, retrofittable window film that can tune the amount of light and heat that is transferred through a building's windows to keep occupants comfortable, reduce glare, and save energy and money. Using cost-effective, scalable technology NexTint can retrofit existing buildings to keep not only employees productive, but also meet government regulations.

  • Third Place: Reebeez. This Austin, Texas startup is commercializing a lightweight, solid-state microengine that can revolutionize power propulsion systems in small, unmanned aerial vehicles. Reebeez’s technology utilizes state-of-the-art thermoelectric generators and thermionics. With a specific energy of 1500 Wh/kg, Reebeez engine can achieve flight times and payloads unrivaled by batteries and fuel cells.

  • Transformational Idea Award: Obtainium. The team’s advanced pilot-scale reactor for converting CO2 into ethanol uses unique copper catalysts, and an innovative reactor design that can works at room temperatures and air pressures and can bolt on to existing refinery-scale reactors. At scale, ECO2R could convert the U.S. corn ethanol industry’s 45 million tons of waste CO2 emissions into 7 billion gallons of low-carbon fuel per year, a $15 billion opportunity.



About First Look West (FLoW)

Launched in 2011 as the western region of the Department of Energy’s $2 million National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition (NCEBPC) for university students, FLoW is under the leadership of the Resnick Sustainability Institute of the California Institute of Technology. In 2015, FLoW launched FLoW 2.0, an immersive program providing a core foundation of skills to turn ideas and technologies into products and businesses.

For more information contact:
Stephanie C. Yanchinski
Executive Director, FLoW
626-395-1968
stephanie.yanchinski@caltech.edu