Electricity Economy Expert Jesse Berst Weighs In on EnerG2 Startup

11/18/08Follow @gthuang

I pinged energy expert Jesse Berst, the managing director of Redmond, WA-based GlobalSmartEnergy, to get his take on EnerG2, the venture-backed energy-storage startup we profiled earlier today. EnerG2 has developed a nanotech approach to building better batteries and “ultracapacitors” for storing electricity. Berst, an Xconomist, replied with some insights into the startup’s prospects for becoming a major player in the electricity economy (you can read more about this here and here), and the main challenge it faces.

Berst first emphasized the importance of EnerG2′s core market. “Energy storage is the choke point of the electricity economy,” he writes. “Whether you want electric vehicles, a smarter, more reliable grid, or simply a laptop that lasts all day on a single charge, it is the lack of cost-efficient storage that stands in your way.”

He then gave a bit of context to the problem EnerG2 is solving. “Although we’re making progress, it is largely incremental—squeezing out more efficiency from approaches that have been known for decades. If EnerG2 has found a new way to store energy, and a way that can achieve industrial scale, the world will beat a path to its door.”

“That said, it should be prepared for skepticism,” Berst writes. “Every few years a new startup appears claiming radical improvements in storage. So far none of them have been able to move to real-world applications in quantity.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://m2e-freelunch.blogspot.com/ Krassen Dimitrov

    I, too, follow this field with great interest.

    Carbon electrodes for ultracapacitors are focus of very intense research worldwide. There was a Science paper a couple of years ago that demonstrated an unexpected increase in specific capacitance at pore size of around 1nm. It was a group from Philadelhpia and they have a spinoff company that should be watched with great interest in this field (it’s called Y-something, if interested, drop me an e-mail and I will find it for you). Another interesting approach is with the carbon “aerogels”…

    The UW research (EnerG2) is very solid, they used sol-gel methods, which give you exquisite control on pore/particle size. The knock on these liquid-based methods have been productivity/throughput; you can make a lot more material via pyrolysis/flame, however people are still working hard on achieving structure uniformity there. If they have showed 1,500lbs scale, though, this is impressive.

    In any case, though, it WILL be incremental. there is a fundamental limitation with these double-layer capacitors in that the permittivity is too low, so the only progress is being made by increasing the specific surface. (The potential is only a few volts).

    Being incremental is not necessarily bad; if you are looking for breakthroughs, though, you have to watch the barrium titaneate dielectrics. I commented on this at Chris Rhodes blog a couple of months ago, but there are many others who are staring intensely into this development. I would even say that these are achieving “cult-like” status. The material has monstrous permittivity and would allow capacitors with potential in the hundreds, even thousands of volts. The company that is working extremely quietly in this space is EEstor. If they can pull it off, it will be a real game-changer.
    Cheers,