Latest “Innovation Crossroads” cohort introduced at ORNL event

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The five newest members of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” program were on display yesterday during an event in the “homeroom” where they will be advancing their energy-based companies over the next two years.

During a late morning to early afternoon session at ORNL, the newly arrived entrepreneurs were introduced to the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) and its “Energy Mentor Network.” Nearly a third of the organization’s 30 mentors attended the session.

“Our job is to surround them with business model guidance,” Tom Rogers, ORNL’s Director of Industrial Partnership and Economic Development, said in referencing the important role of the mentoring activities.

All of the cohort members are eligible to apply for the “Energy Mentor Network,” one of two sector specific programs supported by a grant from Launch Tennessee. The other is focused on start-ups in the life science sector.

During yesterday’s event, the entrepreneurs introduced their companies and their technologies with pitches to the mentors in attendance and most of the members of the Knoxville area “Innov865 Alliance.”

The five young entrepreneurs, who form the second cohort of the program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, join four other entrepreneurs from cohort one who have just begun their second year. Overall, the initiative is designed to provide unique support to science-based start-ups that helps advance game-changing technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. This is a particularly challenging time for energy-focused, early stage start-ups where there has been a steep decline in available investment capital.

The five are:

  • Donald DeRosa, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Eonix, is developing a high voltage electrolyte to significantly lower the cost and size of ultracapacitor modules. The resulting lower cost, smaller modules can be used in tandem with lithium ion batteries to dramatically improve the efficiency, range, and longevity of hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Shane McMahon, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lux Semiconductors, is developing a novel thin-film semiconductor recrystallization process that grows highly crystalline silicon and germanium thin-films as precursor substrates for flexible electronic devices. These flexible, large-area substrates will serve as a platform technology for thin-film transistors, sensors, displays, lighting, and photovoltaics.
  • Justin Nussbaum, Founder of Ascend Manufacturing, is developing a manufacturing grade, additive manufacturing (AM) system called Large Area Projection Sintering (LAPS) that offers many advantages over new and traditional AM technologies. With LAPS, components can be economically created with increased production rates, reduced peak processing temperatures and extended exposure times, enabling processing of a broader range of materials while also providing superior mechanical properties.
  • Megan O’Connor, Co-Founder and CTO of Nth Cycle, is developing a recycling technology that utilizes carbon nanotube membranes for enhanced separation and recovery of solid rare earth and specialty elements (RESE) oxides. This technology will provide a high-throughput electrochemical recovery device for recycling RESE as an alternative to the conventional energy-intensive extraction and refining processes currently used to obtain these metals for manufacturing.
  • Matthew Smith, Co-Founder and CTO of TCPoly, is focused on a new class of high thermal conductivity plastic composite material to improve heat dissipation, allowing for metal replacement and light-weighting, cost and component reductions, and improved performance and reliability. These materials also exhibit the unique ability to be 3D-printed, allowing thermal engineers to rapidly and cheaply prototype multi-functional thermal solutions and enabling the design of heat transfer products that cannot be manufactured using traditional methods.

Pictured below are Tom Rogers opening yesterday’s event (1), Cortney Piper explaining the “Energy Mentor Network” (2), and Megan O’Connor pitching Nth Cycle (3).












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