Archive for Kickstarter
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Here’s what we are hearing:
In the cement industry, the ball mill is probably the nemesis of all staffs. Why? Everybody knows that a cement mill is a technological heresy on an energetic point of view. The mill’s efficiency is extremely poor and the work to get some improvement is huge! We hope this site will give a little help for those who spend a large part of their lives for their ball mill. In this site, you will find some tools, such as calculators for volume load power, cement mill-2 compartments power, cement mill-3 compartments power, monochamber mill power, raw mill power, birotator central discharge mill power, ball charge make-up, Tromp curve, RRB Curve, drying capacities and heat balance.
(GigaOm) As early as this summer, Solar Mosaic plans to start offering people a way to buy into rooftop solar panel projects, and make back a return on their investment over time. Essentially for the investor it will be like buying the safe and predictable return of a mutual fund. The way it works is that a building owner will lease the solar equipment and enter into a contract for a fixed, low, electricity rate, commonly over about two decades. Solar Mosaic is working with solar lease providers like Sungevity, but Solar Mosaic is the one that organizes the crowd-funding of the money to get the solar rooftop installed. Once the project gets funded Kickstart-style, the rooftop solar panel installation process starts. Solar rooftops are a surprisingly low risk investment. As Daniel Rosen, cofounder of Solar Mosaic put it in an article for us last month: solar loans are backed by a revenue-producing asset (electricity) and the building owners are just continuing to pay for the electricity that they are used to paying for day in and day out. There is little risk to investors that the buildings owners will default on their electricity payments, particularly since they are also saving money on their energy bills from day one. In addition the costs, timelines and returns for solar panels are pretty transparent as the technology has become increasingly commoditized.
Westinghouse Electric Company and the Missouri Electric Alliance led by Ameren Missouri announced the formation of a utility participation group called the NexStart SMR Alliance. The Alliance is a consortium of current and prospective nuclear plant owners and operators and includes cooperative, municipal and investor-owned electric service providers, as well as public enterprises to advance energy security. Alliance members signed a Memorandum of Understanding that recognizes the importance of advancing nuclear energy in helping secure clean, safe and reliable electricity in the future by deploying the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor. The initial membership of the NexStart SMR Alliance includes Ameren Missouri, Exelon Generation Company, Dominion Virginia Power, FirstEnergy Generation, Tampa Electric Company, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, Savannah River National Laboratory, and members of the Missouri Alliance: Missouri Public Utility Alliance; Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Inc.; The Empire District Electric Company; and Kansas City Power and Light Company. Westinghouse and Alliance members are also in discussions with other utilities and enterprises considering NexStart SMR Alliance membership in order to support the potential deployment of a Westinghouse SMR at Ameren’s Callaway Energy Center in central Missouri.
Architectural coatings protect and beautify buildings, but use tremendous amounts of petroleum, water and energy. Environmental imperatives mean that sustainability of architectural coatings is increasingly vital, and their role in building energy efficiency is growing with the widespread acceptance of building standards such as LEED and NZEB, according to a Lux Research report. Lux defines sustainability along three dimensions - environmental impact, energy efficiency and resource efficiency - to create a simple “Sustainability Value.” Comparing this metric with “Technical Value,” Lux Analysts mapped out the technologies that will impact the architectural coatings market. “Sustainable coatings technologies reduce the energy, resource, and environmental impact of paints and coatings, but often get confused with ‘greenwashed’ unsustainable alternatives,” says Aditya Ranade, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, Painting a Green Future: Opportunities in Sustainable Architectural Coatings.
Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd. announced its products have achieved a combined one million hours of operation. The company’s first field trial units were operated in Australia, New Zealand and Germany from early 2006. In 2007, the company developed its high-efficiency Gennex fuel cell module, which is the core of the company’s BlueGen product and integrated mCHP products. Up to May 1, 189 units have been operated at Ceramic Fuel Cells’ facilities in Melbourne and Germany, as well as at customer sites in nine countries. Brendan Dow, managing director, said milestones such as this are important. “These units are not just operating in our labs, but at many customer sites in nine countries around the world,” he says.
(MaterialsViews) Bayer MaterialScience plans to establish a global wind energy competence and development center at its existing site in Otterup, Denmark. The new competence center will spearhead and coordinate the global development activities for advanced materials used in wind energy applications. The plan for the center underlines the commitment of Bayer MaterialScience to develop innovative and sustainable materials and technologies for generating power from renewable sources. It will bundle the development capabilities from across the company’s entire portfolio of polyurethanes, polycarbonates as well as coatings, adhesives and specialties materials, pooling expertise from research and development teams around the world. While full details of the global wind energy competence center have yet to be decided, Bayer MaterialScience CEO Patrick Thomas sees it as an opportunity to deploy the company’s expertise in chemistry and processing to help achieve a sustainable reduction in the cost of generating energy from wind turbines.
(MaterialsViews) The Carl Zeiss AG Supervisory Board has elected Dieter Kurz as the new chair of its supervisory board, effective immediately. “With Kurz, we are gaining a chair who is very familiar with the company and the challenges of our portfolio through his many years of successful work as a member of the executive board and president and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG,” says Michael Kaschke, president and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG. “We at Carl Zeiss are looking forward to working with him.” Kurz was already appointed as chair of the shareholder council of the Carl Zeiss Foundation in March. According to the foundation’s constitution, this means that he is a member of the supervisory boards of the two foundation enterprises, Schott AG and Carl Zeiss AG, and is to be elected as chair by the two supervisory boards.
Representatives of leading international companies in the solar photovoltaic industry have announced the founding of the Global Solar Council, a CEO-level industry coalition whose aim is to expand the global deployment of solar energy in a sustainable and cost-competitive way. Global Solar Council members will engage with policymakers worldwide to demonstrate the progress towards abundant, affordable and low emissions energy already made possible by the solar industry and to emphasize the importance of a supportive policy and trade environment, which will enable the ongoing development of competitively-priced solar energy, driving job creation and economic growth. Through its members, the Global Solar Council brings industry knowledge and insights from all sides of the solar photovoltaic value chain; from the supply of materials to product manufacturing and financing, policy, research and innovation, cross-border cooperation, and grid development and management. Council founding members are Applied Materials, Dow Corning, DuPont Electronics & Communication, First Solar, Lanco Solar, Phoenix Solar and Suntech.
About two weeks ago, I wrote about a startup company founded by two ex-materials science students that goes by the name of Power Practical. The company has developed some nifty thermoelectrics gadgets called PowerPots that combined a camper’s cookpot with an integrated power-generation system that could be used for LED lights, charging cell phones and enabling other USB devices.
One of the intriguing things (for me, anyway) is that instead of bootstrapping their enterprise via traditional investment sources, Power Practical turned to Kickstarter, a three-year-old crowdfunding project. With Kickstarter, projects must set a fundraising goal and are given a chance to make an online pitch for supporters to pledge anywhere from $1 up to hundreds of dollars, typically using a stair-step offer of premiums (like your local PBS station pledge drive). Through Kickstarter web pages, companies, such as Power Practical, can make use of videos, links to external websites, Facebook pages and anything else they can think of to help sell the idea of why they deserve monetary support. The only catch is that they have 30 days to reach their fundraising goal — and then its all or nothing: If your goal was $30,000 and you only got $27,000 pledged, you get nothing at the end of the 30 days. (There is some more fine print: If a company reaches its goal, Kickstarter takes a 5 percent commission, and Amazon, which handles the pledge/investment transactions, also takes a cut.)
Returning to Power Practical and PowerPots, the company’s Kickstarter goal was $50,000, but, hell, they soared past that weeks ago. Today is the last day of their 30-day period and they have raised more than $126,000!
Lest any reader think reaching this level of Kickstarter success is easy, a New York Times infographic shows that only 44 percent of the projects reach their goals, and the average financing for technology projects is only $11,704. So, relatively speaking, Power Practical/PowerPots smacked a Kickstarter home run.
Microfinancing efforts, such as Kickstarter, won’t replace in the materials science world’s corporate investments, venture capital or government support, but my guess is that this is still relatively unexplored territory. The New York Times story published around the time Practical Power jumped on Kickstarter reports on how projects have been moving from mainly novelty efforts to more serious tech-oriented proposals:
Although the site first began as a way for people to raise money for quirky projects like pop-up wedding chapels, around-the-world boating trips and offbeat documentaries, it quickly expanded to include video game production, feature films and innovative new gadgets, like the Elevation dock, a sleek stand for the iPhone, or Brydge, which turns an iPad into a laptop resembling the MacBook Air.
The NYT story also makes a great point that “Kickstarter offers budding entrepreneurs a way to float ideas and see if there’s a market for them before they trade ownership of their company for money from venture capitalists.”
Despite the success of PowerPots and other tech-oriented proposals on these sites, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that not everyone is convinced that these general-interest crowdfunding websites are the best match for science and applied science ideas. Along these lines, two environmental scientists, Jarrett Byrnes and Jai Ranganathan, launched the #SciFund Challenge last year with a “call to arms” written by Byrnes.
The current rate of funding for science proposals in the U.S. is ~20%. … All of the traditional sources of cash for science — the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, private foundations — are getting harder and harder to access. And the situation is probably only going to get worse. So what is a scientist to do? … We’d like to propose an experiment to fund our science in an entirely new way — the #SciFund Challenge.
The #SciFund Challenge isn’t really a stand-alone website, but is apparently a subset of the larger RocketHub, mentioned above. It seems that the organizers try to package and publish a multitude of funding proposals in a series of “rounds” that are featured on RocketHub for one month. “Round 2″ was launched this week and includes proposals from 70 different researchers. Here is a look at them:
According to the #SciFund Challenge blog, over $15,000 was raised during the first 24 hours.
What do you think? Is crowdfunding sci-tech work and startups a novelty or something that will eventually be engrained as another go-to option for researchers and entrepreneurs?
Among my camping gear is a small gas stove, a kerosene lantern and a set of nested cooking pots. I also now carry a small folding solar array (by Solio) that can provide a trickle charge to my cell phone. But some clever thermoelectric tools developed by Power Practical, a Utah-based start-up, may have me rethinking what I pack next time I hit the woods.
One of Power Practical’s innovations is called the PowerPot, which can apparently do double-duty as both a cooking pot and portable energy source for charging and powering USB devices. The PowerPot devices operate using thermoelectric units that have been built into each pot.
Ceramists, of course, know that thermoelectric materials work by exploiting temperature differentials to create a flow of electrons through special semiconducting materials. In fact, The American Ceramic Society recently published several excellent technical articles about the search for high-efficiency thermoelectric materials in the April issue of the Bulletin. Thus, it is a nice coincidence that the PowerPots made their debut this month, too.
To be clear, Power Practical isn’t claiming to be using the cutting-edge thermoelectrics written about in the Bulletin. Instead, the company is being smart and using commercially available electronics.
As noted in a news release from the company, “all the PowerPot needs to generate power is heat and water.”
Two sizes of PowerPots are available. Weighing less than one pound, the PowerPot V can deliver up to 5 watts of electricity. The company says the PowerPot V model comes with folding handles and can “fully charge everyday handheld devices such as cell phones and mp3 players in 60-90 minutes.”
The deluxe PowerPot X is about the size and weight of a regular metal kitchen cooking pot, comes with a typical handle, and, with a 10-watt generating capacity, it can support iPad-like tablets. Each comes with a standard USB port attached to a cable with three feet of flame resistant wire. The cable also has a solid-state voltage regulator. A PowerPot XV, capable of producing 15 watts, is currently in development.
Fire, however, is not a requirement. As noted above and as the video below demonstrates, all thermoelectrics require is a large enough temperature gradient.
Besides using the PowerPots for recreational camping and emergency use, the company sees a great potential for their products in underdeveloped regions of the globe. In the release, Power Practical CFO Caleb Light says, “There are over 200 million people in Africa that use cell phones but lack access to electricity. Some must walk over a mile and spend over 15 percent of their monthly income just to charge their phone. It is difficult to keep in touch with loved ones or do business off-grid. Since most people faced with this problem cook on an open fire, the PowerPot fits perfectly into their routine.”
How the company got PowerPots got off the ground is an interesting story by itself. The business was started by two materials science engineering students, David Toledo and Paul Slusser, who “launched” the products April 4 by posting a proposal on Kickstarter, the crowdsourcing fundraising site. They originally hoped to raise $50,000 in pledged investments/sales in 30 days, but, as documented on their Facebook page, it only took them nine! As of today, the total is over $66,000. Toledo says that supporters through kickstarter can order a PowerPot for themselves for $125, donate one to Africa for $99 or both for $199.
I am not a camping purist, and love the idea of bringing my iPad along next time I head off. Boil a little water in a PowerPot and watch a movie under the stars — sounds perfect to me.
UPDATE: Power Practical Kickstarter fundraising shot up to $80,000 over the last week!