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May 18, 2017 | Tom Ballard

Here are profiles on the four teams that comprise the first “Innovation Crossroads” cohort

innovation-crossroads-2Here’s some additional information about the inaugural cohort in the “Innovation Crossroads” program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The teams were formally unveiled in an event yesterday at the lab that also featured two top administrators from the U.S. Department of Energy.


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  • Anna Douglas is the Entrepreneur behind SkyNano Technologies, a start-up that utilizes carbon dioxide as feedstock to significantly lower the production cost of carbon nanotubes. The process provides a use for captured greenhouse gases while benefiting clean energy technologies and advanced manufacturing. She is a Ph.D. student in Interdisciplinary Material Science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellow since 2015, Douglas has primarily focused her studies on next-generation batteries for electrochemical energy storage and has recently developed the growth of high quality carbon nanotubes from ambient carbon dioxide, with this technology extendable to other carbon structures. Her work has been on the “most read” list at ACS Nano and led to eight publications and one patent to date. Prior to Vanderbilt, Douglas completed a B.S. in mathematics and chemistry at Lee University in Cleveland. She interned as an undergraduate at the NASA Glenn Research Center where she worked on developing materials to insulate the battery pack for the Mars Rover. Douglas grew up planning tennis in Ohio and still enjoys the sport, having played on her college team at Lee.
  • Yellowstone Energy is a joint effort from Mathew Ellis and Samuel Shaner. Ellis is graduating this month with his Ph.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), while Shaner will be defending his dissertation soon in the same program. They are developing an advanced nuclear reactor with the potential for faster installation while optimizing safety in order to provide a clean source of baseload electricity. The design uses an already licensed uranium fuel with an ambient pressure, high temperature coolant. Ellis’ research focuses on developing and optimizing numerical methods for coupling Monte Carlo codes with finite element applications for multiphysics nuclear reactor simulations. His most recent conference presentation and paper on these methods received second place for best paper at the 2016 American Nuclear Society Physics of Reactors conference. Ellis earned M.S. and B.S. degrees in Nuclear Engineering and a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. Ellis completed two summer internships at Idaho National Laboratory and also interned with private utility group Exelon Nuclear, working at the company’s Clinton Power Station in Illinois. He currently serves as an at-large director for the Penn State Nuclear Engineering Society and was a member of the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation in 2013. Shaner’s research centers on building high performance computing packages for nuclear reactor analysis. He earned an M.S. degree in Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT and a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara. At MIT, Shaner led and contributed to several open-source, nuclear reactor analysis codes for modeling current and next generation reactors. He co-directed the 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize, a nationwide student clean energy business plan competition. Shaner has been involved in numerous outreach projects, including leading the 2016 NSE “Science on Saturday” event for more than 500 elementary school students, organizing a “Nuts and Bolts of Scientific Computing” seminar series for MIT’s 2016 Independent Activities Period, submitting a proposal to the MIT Climate Co-Lab in 2014 advocating for a more streamlined technology-neutral reactor licensing framework, and organizing tours of the MIT Reactor for students and others. He has performed several internships, including at Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Corning Inc., and Gas Reaction Technologies, LLC.
  • Ming Qi, a former postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tennessee (UT), founded Peroxygen Systems Inc. to address the challenge of using hydrogen peroxide as a bleaching agent in the pulp and paper industry.His start-up was previously profiled in this article on biz. Qi is developing onsite, modular production of hydrogen peroxide, replacing reliance on centralized chemical plants and associated transportation costs for industries such as paper and pulp processors, textiles companies, and for water purification. The technology could be used in two more applications: improving the chlor-alkali process, and advancing the development of a high energy-density zinc peroxide battery. Qi earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Dalian University of Technology and his Ph.D., also in Chemical Engineering, from UT. He is the recipient of a seed grant under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ARPA-E program and also was recently selected to work with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the Departments’ “Small Business Vouchers” program.
  • Active Energy Systems is the fourth start-up in the cohort. It is the brainchild of Mitchell Ishmael, a Knoxville native who completed his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and interned at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during multiple summers. He graduates this month with his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at Cornell University. Active Energy System is focused on providing an efficient, onsite source of power storage, an idea that grew from Ishmael’s outreach to potential critical-needs electricity customers as part of a technology commercialization fellowship at Cornell. The concept isto use a saltwater material to store electricity as thermal energy. The method provides a much cheaper alternative to providing onsite backup power for customers than standby generators or batteries, and is expected to encourage the installation of more distributed, renewable power generation

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