One Scientific commercializing 40-year old technology
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
“It’s a new but dormant technology that was tucked away in a corner for years,” Jon Barnwell of One Scientific, Inc. told us recently about the inaugural product the new company is pursuing.
The Co-Founder and Vice President of the Johnson City-based start-up was referring to its Catalytic Hydrogen Production System or CHPS, pronounced, “chips.” CHPS is a cost-effective technology for providing very efficient hydrogen gas all over the world where there is access to water.
“The technology is something Michael conceived and built in the 1970s,” Barnwell said, referring to Founder and Inventor Michael Redwine. “It remained hidden because it was unsafe.”
Now, nearly four decades later, the team at One Scientific believes it can overcome earlier concerns about safety that made commercialization of the technology challenging, if not impractical.
“Advanced materials, unique design and processes have paved the way to make it safe,” Barnwell explained. “We’re setting new precedents with a small-scale demo. We’re talking about a game changer invented by a remarkable man who, among many achievements, was nominated by Apple Founder Steve Jobs for SPIRE Engineer of the Year – and won.”
So, what does the technology do? Simply stated, it’s hydrogen to electricity conversion.
According to Barnwell, CHPS has the trifecta – waste heat recovery, solid state power generation technology, and distributed production. It starts with hydrogen, which is the key to unlocking clean and abundant energy for this and future generations.
“The hydrogen economy requires adoption of the hydrogen fuel cell,” he says, noting that fuel cells deplete hydrogen and must be refilled. “We have very few hydrogen filling stations in the U.S. because of cost and technical challenges related to producing hydrogen from renewable sources.”
This translates into a critical need for thousands of renewable filling stations that have to be affordable, easily installed, and accessed.
That’s where One Scientific’s technology enters the picture.
CHPS overcomes those challenges. While the process involves closely held trade secrets, Barnwell says, “We efficiently generate pure hydrogen gas from a superheated steam and we do so at the point-of-use.”
By effectively removing the transportation element, One Scientific says it is cutting years off of market transformation due to lack of hydrogen pipeline and transportation infrastructure.
“We are gaining attention from some big players,” says Barnwell. One Scientific believes it has a scalable solution for hydrogen fuel cell filling, remote/back-up power system, off-grid/on-grid power generation, and disaster recovery where quiet and fume free power generation is needed.
Barnwell and Redwine met in church six years ago and began collaborating on CHPS and One Scientific. They formed the new company, which is located in East Tennessee State University’s Innovation Lab, last year.
As a pre-revenue start-up, operations have been fully funded out-of-pocket and through private investment.
“We expect to demonstrate the alpha prototype by the end of 2015, then immediately begin beta.” Barnwell says. “We’re now seeking financial capital from government grants, equity crowdfunding, and angel investors.”
Barnwell and Redwine are focused on building the right team that can help take the technology to the next level.
“Michael leads the technical end, and I bring in the business side,” Barnwell explains. “Together we’re creating a goal-oriented environment that fosters innovation and rewards success.
Barnwell has been involved in three start-ups and simply says, “This is the most challenging by far but also the most rewarding. We share in one common vision and have the obligation to empower the world with hydrogen energy, one switch at a time.”