Berkeley based startup Axiom Exergy wins big at ARPA-E

expo at arpa-e

Last night, a Berkeley-based startup Axiom Exergy, started by materials science graduate student Anthony Diamond, took first place in the Future Energy Pitching Session. Another Berkeley-based startup, Indoor Reality, took third place as well. The session was moderated by Graham Lawlor of Ultra Light Startups and included expert commentary and advice for the startups from Colleen Calhoun (GE Energy Ventures), Cody Nystrom (SJF Ventures), Zack Schildhorn (Lux Capital), and Willem Rensink (Shell GameChanger).

Axiom Exergy focuses on thermal energy “batteries” for commercial refrigeration applications, while Indoor Reality is the building retrofit backpack + software you may have seen around campus building live energy models on the fly simply by wearing the backpack and walking around. The contestants only had 3 minutes to pitch and 3 minutes for Q&A. At the end, the winner was decided by audience vote, with hundreds of people in attendance. The full descriptions of the seven technologies who pitched can be found below. SLIPS Technologies got the 2nd place award.


SLIPS Technologies (web): “Nothing sticks to SLIPS.” Usually we are avoiding slippery surfaces, but actually slippery surfaces have many useful applications. This self-adhesive thin film technology can be used for industries with “stick” problems. Some of the applications include coatings for marine ships where marine fouling can cause billions of dollars in extra energy costs due to drag, or shipping containers with high value chemicals where you would like to get every last drop of chemical out of the container without needing to rinse the container.

Indoor Reality (web): A Berkeley-based startup, you may have heard of this technology…it’s Ghostbusters meets building efficiency. A new high-tech backpack loaded with visible and infrared light cameras and a whole bunch of other sensing technology can be worn to do quick, accurate audits for building efficiency. With targeted markets for both energy service companies as well as architecture, engineering, and construction firms, the backpacks collect thousands of data points which can them be used to build detailed energy models for buildings and recommend optimal retrofit measures to save energy and money.

EnZinc (web): Instead of trying to compete with Li-ion or trying to make a new battery chemistry, EnZinc seeks to “teach an old material new tricks”. Working with a nickel-zinc battery chemistry, the company is using a metal microsponge material structure to give a range comparable to current Li-ion batteries while cutting costs by up to two-thirds. Their initial target markets are in smaller battery sizes, such as wearables and electric bicycles.

Accio Energy (web): Accio Energy’s goal is to create cost-competitive offshore wind energy using an entirely different technology based on a weather phenomenon: wind and rain combine to create lightning. There are no turbines and very few moving parts. A floating system of panels emits wave-pumped water that is given a small amount of charge. The wind helps to separate positively and negatively charged particles creating an electric field of 200kV which can then be harnessed as high-voltage DC electricity for transmission to the mainland grid. They are boasting an LCOE of $97/MWh with 45% lower capex, 40% higher capacity factor, and 25% lower maintenance costs as compared with current offshore wind technology. Their next step is a 10kW demonstration project before they can prove further scaling up.

Axiom Exergy (web): Another Berkeley-based startup, Axiom Energy is building the “refrigeration battery”. Essentially a thermal storage product with a theme of permanent load shifting, Axiom Exergy installs a non-invasive retrofit “batter” (chilled water tank) to freeze water when energy is cheap at night, and then using the energy during the day when on-peak power prices are higher. Their target market is supermarkets and refrigerated warehouses, and they claim a payback of 2-4 years.

AmberWave (web): AmberWave is developing a high-performance flexible silicon solar cell for applications in superior building-integrated photovoltaic products and other new premium markets such as drones being used for wireless expansion and remote sensing. They believe by making building-integrated products, they can lower the overall balance of system costs for solar PV systems.

SAFCell (web): SAFCell builds fuel cell stacks that are fuel flexible and durable for portable, remote, or stationary power uses. They are simply the stack provider and work with other system partners for full fuel cell packaging and delivery. Their stacks are 1.5kW in size and can be combined into 50-100kW units. They are building a propane fueled unit for the army now and have a residential market partnership developing with Fuel Cell Energy, Inc.