EnerG2 Moves Into ‘Execute Mode’ to Enhance Batteries, Natural Gas Cars

4/6/11Follow @xconomy

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compositions of carbon, iron, and other elements. That means they generate carbons with different properties in the end, he says.

EnerG2 does things quite differently. It starts from scratch with a resin polymerization process, which is controlled in a lab environment. The idea is to begin from the ground up with a consistent synthetic precursor, which allows its scientists to run a conversion process that yields an absolutely consistent form of activated carbon. The process can lead to activated carbons with various pore sizes and surface structures that are tailor made for whatever application the customer wants. The key is in get the process right, and making it reproducible.

“Every batch is the same,” Luebbe says.

Now that EnerG2 has gotten a lot more practiced at making optimized forms of its synthetic carbons for ultracapacitors, it’s ready to test its mettle in those other, potentially more lucrative applications in the battery world.

Right now, none of EnerG2′s customers will allow themselves to be publicly identified, Luebbe says, because they don’t want their competitors to know they are using the synthetic carbons. The technology has potential to enhance batteries in such a way that new kinds of devices and applications will be enabled, Luebbe says. (One of his favorites is making carbons to store liquid natural gas, to turn it into a practical automotive fuel. The idea is to enable liquid natural gas to be stored at much lower pressure than it must be kept at today, which will make it safer in the event of a crash, and cheaper).

There are other high-science approaches out there today. Carbon nanotubes get a fair bit of press, and a couple of scientists won Nobel Prizes last year for their work on graphene—a one-atom thick carbon film that Wired calls “one of the most promising and versatile materials ever discovered.”

Other approaches to making synthetic carbon, Luebbe says, are complicated, and tend to work in small batches. EnerG2 plans to differentiate itself on its ability to keep production costs low, and to have a process that can ramp up to commercial scale.

Time, of course, will tell whether EnerG2 can prove that. The Oregon factory already has a “good amount of capacity” that’s committed to fulfilling orders for customers, Luebbe says. No question, he wants that factory pumping out industrial quantities of synthetic carbons, for a wide variety of customers with specific applications, by this time next year.

“We’re deep into execute mode,” Luebbe says.

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