X Prize Foundation Awards $25K for Best “Crazy Green Idea” Video

2/5/09Follow @bvbigelow

What began in Boston last September as a contest to generate ideas for a new “Energy X Prize” has ended in El Segundo, CA, with two UC Irvine students winning the $25,000 award.

The X Prize Foundation, which organized the competition, identified the winners today as second-year undergrads Kyle Good of Temecula, CA, and Bryan Le of Manhattan Beach, CA. They shared a $25,000 check from Prize Capital, a San Diego fund that put up the money, during a ceremony held yesterday in British Telecom’s U.S. headquarters in El Segundo. (BT is now a corporate partner of the X Prize Foundation.)

The UC Irvine students created a YouTube video for the “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea?” competition that called for a new type of energy storage medium—the ultracapacitor. Their images-1video, The Capacitor Challenge, was one of three finalists selected in November by the Playa Vista, CA-based X Prize Foundation. As I reported in December, the notion of creating a big cash prize to stimulate work on an ultracapacitor was a puzzling surprise to San Diego’s Maxwell Technologies, which has been selling ultracapacitors for years. Yet Maxwell CEO David Schramm says it would be a breakthrough if someone could develop a device that combines the best energy storage qualities of a battery and an ultracapacitor.

The students’ concept for a new type of ultracapacitor calls for “a real, working energy storing device” that among other things must:
—Exceed the energy density of average lead-acid batteries.
—Fully recharge under one minute and for as many as 500,000 cycles.
—Incorporate non-toxic materials and be completely recyclable.
—Cost less that two times the average price of lead-acid batteries.

Bryan Le, left, and Kyle Good

Bryan Le, left, and Kyle Good

The competition that was announced at MIT five months ago invited the public to develop a two-minute YouTube video that proposes a new X Prize for Energy and the Environment. The foundation says it got more than 130 videos, and more than 4,200 people voted for the winner. The X Prize Foundation named two other finalists in November. A Cambridge, MA, team headed by Jonathan Dreher called for reducing home energy consumption in their video, Energy X PRIZE: Reduce Home Energy Usage and Alan Silva of Roy, Utah, created a video that proposed developing off-the-grid energy efficient homes, Energy Independence X PRIZE.

The contest became feasible when Prize Capital, a private entity funded by Internet entrepreneur Lee Stein, agreed to put up the $25,000 award. Stein created Prize Capital in 2006 specifically to fund global competitions aimed at discovering innovative solutions to energy and environmental problems.

But winning the “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea?” video contest doesn’t mean the proposal for a new ultracapacitor will automatically become the next multi-million-dollar X Prize competition. Instead, a spokeswoman for the X Prize Foundation told me, “It’s kind of a good jump start to get a general discussion going on what the next energy X Prize should be.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • http://www.jacobrheuban.com Jacob

    The video creators have set some lofty goals for ultracapacitor innovators. But then again, launching a privately constructed vehicle into space was a lofty goal and the XPRIZE Foundation seemed to help motivate Scaled Composites to do so several years ago. It will be interesting to see what the XPRIZE Foundation comes up with in the realm of an award for achievement in capacitor technology.