Another chapter in EEStory

A short story on EEStor appeared today on MIT’s Technology Review site. A few thoughts to walk away with:

1) The company has certified that its equipment and procedures can make the materials it needs to go into high-volume production of its ceramic ultracapacitor.

2) It took longer than expected to get to this stage because EEStor raised the bar on its production standards so it could develop production materials for mission-critical applications — i.e. military stuff.

3) Voltage breakdown concerns have been addressed, primarily thanks to the alumina that coats and seals the composition-modified barium titanate.

4) Beyond materials and powder production, the rest — i.e. component and EESU manufacturing — is relatively simple, at least compared to disk drive manufacturing.

5) EEStor is also having serious talks with solar and wind companies regarding the use of EESUs in grid-scale storage applications.

Now, some other stuff that Weir said during an interview that wasn’t in the Tech Review article:

6) Weir is keeping the name EEStor, despite rumours it might change. He said the brand recognition now is too great to let it go.

7) Weir’s relationship with Lockheed Martin runs deeper than first thought. “Who’s best at certifying what we’ve got? Lockheed,” said Weir. “They’ve seen our factory. I’ve been working with them since 2001.”

8) It seems that Lockheed may be an investor in EEStor. I come to this conclusion by this statement: “We told our investors we can do it better, and we did.” Weir made this statement when explaining the reason why they took an extra year to meet its certification milestones for “advanced technologies,” such as military applications. Not sure ZENN or Kleiners, the only known investors, have demanded such higher standards. Obviously, if Lockheed and its demands are the source of this delay, then it’s reasonable to assume its partnership with EEStor is also in the form of an investment. “We fully plan to do a major expansion on this to meet anybody’s requirement as we go forward,” he said.

9) Weir said the production lines will be modular and highly robotic.

10) A corporate Web site will go up once the components are being manufactured.

11) He hinted that he was expecting competitors to challenge EEStor, and that his advantage will be the ability to move quickly and stay several steps ahead. “If we get challenged, we’ll move to scale up,” he said. “We have a lot of knowledge built up.”

I truly got the sense that Weir is going to start talking more about this company, probably come this fall. But I also got the sense EEStor is more heavily involved with Lockheed than originally thought — i.e. there’s a big focus here on developing military applications using the technology. He called what he’s working on as “Manhattan II.” It makes sense, given that many great technological innovations have trickled down from work originally done at the military level — GPS, the Internet, nuclear power.

Anyway, food for thought. Thanks, Dick, for the update.

17 thoughts on “Another chapter in EEStory”

  1. Very high power density and very high energy density devices are ideal for portable directed energy weapons (e.g. high power free-electron lasers for theatre or intercontinental anti-missile, i.e. airborne or perhaps even space based; or short range ground/shipborne missile or mortar intercept). A truly viable ABM technology would certainly be a “Manhattan II” class achievement. Another obvious application would be subs capable of extended time ultra-silent running. This is in addition to more prosaic dual use field portable power applications, e.g. remote bases powered by local renewables and field portable power applications.

    Military security considerations would also be entirely consistent and may partially account for EEStor’s somewhat ambiguous/elliptical statements re:EESU technology and capabilities to date. However it still doesn’t entirely explain why they haven’t demo’d the basic technology on a “black box” basis publicly. It must also be fairly disconcerting from a Zenn investor perspective to hear that they may have delayed the tech for a ~1yr to meet military req’ts, i.e. potentially enabling competitors to fast-follow their lead and reduce the market for their products.

    Also, I think this technology almost single handedly enables renewable energy sources to begin large scale displacement of fossil fuel electrical generation. Most of the major renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, tidal, wave) are intermittent, as well as being unable to respond to demand fluctuations, and therefore cannot replace baseload fossil/nuclear power generation, unless they are supplemented with cost-effective, large scale, high power/energy density storage. If EEStor tech proves out it is literally nothing less than the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.

    Overall, a very encouraging sounding interview, I tend to think they’ve got the goods, what do you think? Thanks.

    P.S.: While Mr Weir has addressed the voltage breakdown issue in both patent apps and verbally, the one ongoing omission in his conversations with various parties is whether/how they have overcome the issue raised by critics of BT dielectric field saturation at large scale with high voltages, which some have said is req’d to enable high permittivity = energy density of a complete EESU . It certainly may be inferred that they must have solved this issue for KP, LMT, Zenn and others to continue investing, let alone funding a mfg line. However it would appear to be a key ‘secret sauce’ aspect of their product.

    P.P.S: It should also be noted that there are number of potentially dangerous asymmetric warfare applications that even a car-sized EESU could be used for against a developed country. I presume they’ll have to design in limits on commercial EESU versions to prevent those uses.

  2. Check google patent search for Quantum Supercapacitor. In the patent is theory for how EEStor’s capacitor can achieve it’s storage performance. Marcus on found the 2006 US patent. I am just pointing it out for your interest and to address your first PS.

  3. “Manhattan II”

    Portable energy weapons, portable high energy artillery, airborne energy weapons, Battleship style artillery able to fire multi-ton ammo over great distances, satellite based energy weapons.

    The one thing that’s for sure, if it’s in the air or in space, it’s a clay pigeon. You might be able to dodge or deflect the first beam, but you wont be able to do it forever.

    Here’s Manhattan II. Anyone ever read “The Moon is a hash mistress”? heh

    We’re going back to the moon. Oh brother.

    Ok, I’m completely convinced. You can call me gullible, but I simply can’t see how the companies involved would make the maneuvers they have over the past few years if this thing weren’t real.

  4. A good summation/analysis of Mr. Weir’s press conference. Well, this should make for an interesting year. Of course, I said this LAST year as well! Perhaps now I will start to see large, brillant flashes of light down the road over Cedar Park;-) Oh yeh- I did read Robert Heinlien’s ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as a youngster awaiting the Moon missions- still an interesting book!

  5. Tyler

    Any reason you did not include the additional information in your write up in the mit review?

    lockheed was working with eestor back in 2001 why do you sign a contract with little guy like Zenn in 2004 when you talking to lockheed? If this is consider the “Manhattan II.” Project, why is this even public? we are talking about national security of the highest order, these are normally not public. Why is even Kleiner Perkins involve where lockheed could easily fund them?.. it seems the more answers we get, the more questions we have,

  6. I’d suspect that it is public because ultimately there is far, far more money in commercialization of such a product than there is in the weaponization of such a product. Governments could spend, what, a few trillion, max? Worldwide utility companies *alone* could spend more than that, and that’s not even including car manufactures, or MP3 players, or laptops, or whatever other industry would give its right arm for an energy storage solution like this.

  7. To put it another way: the US is essentially bankrupt. Soon it won’t be able to maintain its military expenditures, and will slowly start scaling back. Russia is essentially bankrupt, and it HAS been scaling back its military expenditures. Every country in Europe has been teetering on the edge of financial oblivion since the end of World War Two; they can barely afford what they have now.

    That leaves: China, India, Brazil, Australia, and Canada. Canada and Australia don’t have large military budgets. Brazil and India are still relatively poor countries, and they will be for the next couple decades. That leaves ONE country that can buy a fair number of these things, and that’s China. And even China can’t spend more than a trillion or two.

  8. What about Japan? They have a fairly sound economy and gigantic surpluses.

    Anyway, the Asian countries will soon rise to lead the world and they have already shown that they do not like the US bringing “democracy” and “peace” to the world. The game is changing.

  9. Yes, but the Japanese military philosophy for the last 60 years has been fundamentally different to ours. Written into their constitution after WWII is a ban on offensive military actions, and their military has been structured in a purely defensive manner. It does seem to be shifting a bit as of late, with their limited assistance in Afghanistan I believe, but it would still take a major paradigm shift in their military philosophy to heavily invest in these types of weapons for the purpose of increasing their global clout.

  10. Tyler, since you are canadian and also intrigued by the EESTOR story perhaps you might be interested in doing a little digging on ENERGENEUS. I found a patent of theirs that appears to have close parallels to the EESTOR patents.

    The idea is quite similar to EESTOR’s superficially in that its about making a super capacitor out of Barium titanate at astronomical energy densities.

    Like EESTOR’s first patent, there is no mention of dielectric saturation and they appear to assume k will remain high at high field strength.

    The applicant is ENERGENIUS from the Toronto area (try google). If you go their website you will see very encouraging activity until suddenly all went quite in 2003. I wonder what ever happened to their “Proprietary Triple-S Energy Storage Technology”. I also don’t know how much funding they ever got but it would certainly be interesting to find out and compare…

  11. Indeed: I thought about Japan, but I didn’t bother to include them because they aren’t allowed to buy significant amounts of offensive weaponry.

  12. I’m not sure all the mystery surrounding EEStor needs to be explained by military secrecy, conspiracy, etc.

    Think about it: the technology EEStor promises is HUGE for any end use: military, domestic or transportation. It’s like cold fusion.

    I have no doubt that they’re on to something good, but we all know that the road from “good idea” to implementation is long, complicated and risky.

    Imagine a lottery ticket that has a 10% chance of winning 10 million dollars: those are great odds, considering the payout, and you’d be crazy not to buy it. Indeed it’s the chance of a lifetime. But you’d also be crazy to bank on it: there’s a 90% chance it won’t be the winner.

    I think that’s the situation that EEStor finds itself in. They’re either sitting on a goldmine, or nothing at all. And they won’t know which until the process of development has played itself out. I’m sure they’re right to be excited by whatever it is they’re on to–whatever it is that makes them think they’ve got a good chance of developping this technology to commercialisation.

    But they’re also right to be cautious, to not count their eggs till after they’ve hatched, because even with a great idea, and the best people working on it, and some serious investors/partners, the whole thing could still fizzle. There are no guarantees in this business. Ever heard of Ballard?

  13. The military interest in EEStor doesn’t have to involve death rays or weapons at all. Amory Lovins correctly points out that a largest portion of any military operation is logistics: in particular, moving petrol around, which it needs for everything from powering its bases to fueling the vehicles. It’s a major budget-devourer and worse: in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a real source of casualties. The capability to create their own energy from renewables like solar twinned with effective, lightweight storage systems would be extremely beneficial.

    Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach–the success of any campaign is determined as much by energy as by weaponry. In WWII Hitler’s first move was to secure a reliable supply of Norwegian oil. I’m sure that in the US, the politicians are the ones interested in deathrays, but the generals are probably more interested in mobile energy.

  14. Tyler,

    Your Technology Review article stated that Zenn expects to have an EEstor powered CityZenn commercially available in late 2009.

    Can you tell me if Richard Weir’s prediction for a commercial release “as early as possible in 2009” was limited to “potential partners in the solar and wind industry”, or was Weir also stating that Zenn would not receive the first production line EESUs until 2009 as well?

    The company is also in serious talks with potential partners in the solar and wind industry, where EEStor’s technology can, according to Weir, help put 45 percent more energy into the grid. He says that the company is working toward commercial production “as soon as possible in 2009,” although when asked, he gave no specific date. “I’m not going to make claims on when we’re going to get product out there. That’s between me and the customer. I don’t want to tell the industry.”

  15. I have heard very little comment on the EEStor/ZENN impact on the infrastructure of not only the US, but CHina, India, etc. It’s great to say:”Well it can charge in 4 hours on household current during non-peak hours”. Maybe the US can eventually ramp up to that but what about the rest of the world. This is truily an energy transfer system. A true ultracapacitor will charge and discharge in seconds using 1.5 to 3 volts. And, it can be charged at home iusing a small solar/wind array with far less impact on the electrical grid. Can you impagine a 400 lb battery both in your home and in your garage?

    The technology may work but is it practical for the uses it was developed for?

Comments are closed.