e-Zinc Named One of Caltech’s Rocket Fund 2020 Awardees

July 15, 2020

  • Aralez Bio., Co-Founded by former Resnick Research Fellow Christina Boville, Aralez provides an efficient, sustainable alternative to chemical manufacturing by engineering enzymes to produce non-natural chemicals. Using directed evolution—the technique for which Aralez co-founder Frances Arnold was awarded the Nobel Prize—the company has engineered novel enzymes that can make over 100 different amino acid building blocks from readily available precursors while releasing water as the only byproduct. The company estimates that its technology produces 100-times less waste and consumes 35% less energy when compared to traditional chemical synthesis. Support from the Rocket Fund will enable the purchase of critical equipment to support pilot scale demonstration and quality control, and to ensure that Aralez Bio’s products meet customers’ exacting standards (>99% purity). These milestones will lay the foundation for customer adoption and help the company explore future opportunities in the pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical industries.
  • Cypris Materials, Inc. Co-founded by former Resnick Fellow Raymond Weitekamp, the company’s mission is to bring structural color to the market as a sustainable solution to global energy inefficiencies, as an alternative to toxic dyes and pigments, and as a new paradigm for controlling the flow of light. Cypris leverages a patented polymer technology to enable rapid self-assembly of molecules into highly ordered nanostructures to create paintable, reflective coatings that can be applied to variety of surfaces including metals, woods, glass, fabrics, plastics, ceramics, and asphalt. These structural color coatings can be formulated to yield visually-transparent yet highly reflective structures in minutes under ambient conditions. Application of these coatings to steep slope roofs could unlock Energy Star ratings with minimal aesthetic impact. For example, an uncoated black roof will absorb up to 95% of all incident solar energy. This results in an increase in building temperature with some roofs exhibiting a temperature 55 °C greater than the surrounding environment. Widespread adoption of Cypris’s technology could yield substantial savings on the building cooling energy burden by reflecting solar energy away from the roof. The Rocket Fund grant will provide the capital for the team to produce materials at a commercial scale, and help deliver the company’s first commercial prototype to customers for demonstration and testing on-site.
  • e-Zn, Inc. eZn is developing energy storage technology in the form of electrochemical cells that “metallize energy” – store energy in physically free zinc metal, a significantly less expensive option compared to current established technologies such as lithium-ion. Other advantages include delivering energy for multiple days; providing fire resistance; and being completely recyclable/reusable. e-Zn’s technology is exceptionally well suited for long-duration energy storage applications; adding more hours of runtime requires only supplying additional materials i.e. zinc, potassium hydroxide (the electrolyte), and plastic (for containment). e-Zn’s technology offers extra grid resiliency, particularly important in California. Given its ultra-low cost of energy capacity, e-Zn devices can provide an affordable and reliable source of backup power for 1-2 days or longer (vs. only a few hours for commercially available batteries). e-Zn will use the Rocket Fund grant to build a proprietary control system that will be key to designing, testing, and validating an e-Zn system that will undergo demonstration in California.
  • Nitricity, Inc.Nitricity manufactures nitrogen fertilizer at the farm site using just air, water, and renewable electricity. In contrast to the traditional Haber-Bosch process at the core of fertilizer manufacturing, the technology can produce nitrogen fertilizer without natural gas and does so with a low-capital cost system that can be turned on and off almost instantaneously to take advantage of intermittent electricity. Production, distribution, and application of nitrogen fertilizer accounts for as much as 5% (2.88 Gigatons) of all CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) emissions. Nitricity believes its fertilizer solution will directly mitigate 81% of the CO2eq emissions for each farm converted. For the average 400-acre farm, that amounts to 228 tons of CO2eq per year. The Rocket fund award will be used to support Nitricity’s first commercial solar-fertilizer system in 2020.
  • Troposphere Monitoring, Inc.(acquired in 2020 by international standards and certification company Project Canary) Troposphere aims to enable natural gas producers and landfill companies to quickly, affordably, and remotely reduce methane emissions with its real-time hydrocarbon sensor technology. The sensor combines a field-ready, low-cost spectrophotometer with an anemometer, case, and electronics suitable for off-grid deployment. Their technology calculates the concentration of methane gas by measuring and comparing the absorption of infrared light in a sample to known gas absorption properties. Those data are combined with wind information to track the origin of the sample. The Fugitive Emissions Abatement and Simulation Testbed (FEAST) model developed at Stanford shows that a sensor with this product’s specifications could save about 9,208 kilograms of methane per oil well per year (773 tons CO2 eq.) in the oil and gas industry alone. The Rocket Fund award will be applied to assembling, calibrating and validating the sensors that will be deployed at the company’s first landfill trial in California.
  • Xeal EnergyXeal is developing PRISM, a proprietary EV charging technology that offers multi-unit residential and commercial tenants comprehensive information on charging speeds and times through a single aggregated calendar, mapped across the building’s constraints, grid’s requests, the available EV charging stations, the fleet designated to the site, and operator requests for charging. The core innovation consists of a 2-sided scheduler that integrates with the building’s meters, and populates the calendar on a driver’s mobile app with times when electricity costs less and power is more readily available, which can then be reserved for their charging session for faster and more affordable charges. Test results suggest that this technology could reduce electricity and installation costs by 70%. Moreover, Xeal’s solution may boost EV adoption significantly by addressing the lack of charging access in locations where panel upgrades would be prohibitively expensive. Disadvantaged communities with buildings older than 30 years could especially benefit from Xeal’s low cost, high utilization scheduling model. The Rocket Fund award will cover near field communication (NFC) development which could fully unlock their patent-pending technology by leveraging its smart scheduling AI to eliminate the need for expensive and unreliable Wi-Fi & cellular connectivity.
  • Yotta Energy has developed PV-Coupled™ architecture, an energy storage solution designed for multi-scaled rooftop solar PV installations. At about the size of a briefcase, Yotta’s patented technology fits under any industry standard solar module. Yotta’s technology features advanced thermal management to maintain an optimal working temperature under extreme outdoor conditions. Yotta’s solution is also designed to UL 9540, a recognized industry safety standard set by UL, the authoritative global safety science organization. Achieving this certification helps validate the technology as one of the safest energy storage options available for urban environments. Recent fires in states such as California have exposed aging utility infrastructure. Yotta’s PV-Coupled™ architecture helps address this problem by enhancing grid resilience and reliability. By 2025, projected deployments of Yotta’s solution may enable over 22,000 GWh of solar plus storage and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 15 megatons. The Rocket Fund grant will support a pilot conducted by the authoritative Renewable Energy Test Center in Fremont, CA and contribute to multiple stages of the UL certification process.


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