TROY — Two local companies will receive a combined $750,000 from the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority, part of a $1.2 million grant to support projects which improve the energy efficiency of manufacturing technologies, according to a Thursday announcement from NYSERDA.
Troy-based ThermoAura, Inc. was awarded $393,000 to aide in the commercialization of its heat-to-electricity technology while Green Island-based Ecovative Design, was awarded $350,000 to improve the energy efficiency of the manufacturing processes used to produce its product, a packaging foam synthesized from farm by-products.
“The State understands that the manufacturing sector plays a critical role in the economy, and with the incentives provided today, it is assisting these cleantech companies to remain competitive by manufacturing products in a more energy efficient way,” said NYSERDA President and CEO, Francis J. Murray, Jr. in a statement. “Governor Cuomo has stressed the importance of innovation and technology in growing the State’s economy, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Capital Region. These … companies are examples of how investments in clean-energy technology and manufacturing can provide benefits to all New Yorkers.”
ThermoAura is a start-up formed in 2011 by Rutvik Mehta and several professors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They have built a solid-state thermoelectric material which creates electricity from heat in a process more efficient than comparable products currently on the market. The company is poised to partner with Ceralink Inc. of Troy in order to scale up production to a commercial level.
When commercialized, the technology could be used in medical devices, compact refrigerators, and for power generation from low-temperature (less than 100 degrees Celsius) industrial or vehicle exhaust waste heat. Paralleling their growth expectations, the company expects to add 10 new jobs in the next three to five years.
Across the river, Ecovative Design has been making a natural alternative to standard packaging foam by bonding farm by-products through adhesives found in mushrooms. The funding will support the company’s efforts to make its manufacturing process more efficient.
Currently, the company pumps a mixture of materials into a plastic mold, which hardens in three to five days. With a new technique, the company would create a "suspension material" that would bond in seconds. This could reduce expenses, increase productivity and lessen the amount of energy needed to create the form.
The company employs 70 full- and part-time employees and works out of a 50,000 square-foot office and manufacturing plant along Cohoes Ave. in Green Island.
The awards were announced at Automated Dynamics of Schenectady, which was awarded $400,000 to continue commercialization of a process that could improve the manufacturing of parts by 63 percent.
The company, founded in 1984 by three RPI graduates, creates custom composites from plastics, carbon and glass fibers. At its inception, the company used an electrically heated gas torch to fuse the layers of materials. Since then, it has developed a proprietary technology which uses a laser heating system to build materials into shapes that had not been feasible before. This technique is faster, reduces energy consumption by more than 60 percent and can provide energy benefits to the customer through a reduction in the weight of the parts. The firm employs 32 at its 407 Front Street location in Schenectady.