SBIR/STTR Phase III Success Stories

If you have successfully commercialized a technology that resulted from a DOE SBIR or STTR Phase II award and want to share your success story, please contact Claudia Cantoni at claudia.cantoni@science.doe.gov

Innovative functional sensors employ carbon nanotubes and polymer nanowires with a tunable surface chemistry to detect a variety of molecules.

Program(s): Office of Fossil Energy (FE)

InnoSense LLC (ISL) has adopted a commercialization strategy that consists of developing multiple application opportunities for different markets. This approach requires understanding the different uses a given technology can have and further tailoring some of its aspects to meet the demand of different customers. ISL has leveraged R&D funds from the Department of Energy (DOE) and subsequently from other Federal agencies with missions that complement DOE’s goals, such as the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This has been the strategy of choice for ISL’s nanowire chemical sensing technology, which was originally funded by the DOE SBIR/STTR Programs for developing a polymer-based sensor array toward subsurface CO2 detection and monitoring.

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An integrated cloud based cyberinfrastructure for sustainable and optimal use of subsurface resources.

Program(s): Biological and Environmental Research (BER)

Time lapse geophysical techniques can provide real time insights in subsurface processes such as enhanced bioremediation. As an expert in time lapse geophysics, and a scientist working at Idaho National Laboratory, Dr. Roelof Versteeg was determined to improve the understanding of time lapse geophysical data through the use of geochemical, hydrological and remote sensed data.

This work motivated Dr. Versteeg to found Subsurface Insights in 2012 to address a need which exists across water resources, site remediation and agriculture: how to effectively and automatically collect, manage and analyze geoscience data sets to generate actionable information on subsurface processes

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Low-cost, polymer-based security tag technology uses crack patterns for unambiguous tampering evidence.

Program(s): National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)

Tamper-indicating security seals are designed to leave non-erasable, unambiguous evidence of unauthorized access or entry. As such, these seals play a critical role in customs, nonproliferation, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism. It has been shown that currently available seals can be quickly and easily spoofed and high-tech electronic seals, although more expensive and labor-intensive, do not necessarily perform better than simple mechanical seals. Currently, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and many private companies have expressed a demand for high-performance, lightweight, and inexpensive passive seals.

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Anasys Instruments’ newly developed nanoIR technology allows for combined materials chemistry and topography mapping with 10-nanometer resolution.

Anasys Instruments’ newly developed nanoIR technology allows  for combined materials chemistry and topography mapping with 10-nanometer  resolution.

When it comes to sample characterization and analysis, the dream of any materials scientist is an instrument that given an “as grown” material of undefined composition would easily produce a map of its chemistry and other electronic properties along with its topography with nanoscale spatial resolution and without the need of sample preparation steps or costly high-vacuum environments. Developing such an instrument was the vision behind the genesis and subsequent success of Anasys Instruments. Now, with its recent acquisition by Bruker, Anasys nanoIR technology is posed to dramatically impact materials research worldwide.

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Converting Legacy Linear Fluorescent Lamps (LFLs) and luminaires to Solid-State Lighting (SSL).

Converting Legacy Linear Fluorescent Lamps (LFLs) and luminaires to Solid-State Lighting (SSL).

Buildings account for more than 75% of all U.S. electricity use and more than 40% of all U.S. energy use. Almost 30% of that energy is consumed by interior lighting. In commercial buildings, 80% of all lighting fixtures use fluorescent lamps to produce light. These linear fluorescent lamp (LFL) fixtures or luminaires account for about 1 billion units installed in the commercial and industrial lighting base in the U.S., costing ratepayers around $27 billion annually. These legacy lighting products are commonly associated with poor light quality, flicker, lack of dimming, short lifetime, environmentally hazardous breakage and disposal, lack of compliance with current building codes, and very limited design choices.

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High light extraction photonic materials and color conversion film nanostructures for next-generation solid-state lighting technologies.

High light extraction photonic materials and color conversion film nanostructures for next-generation solid-state lighting technologies.

Although Solid-State Lighting (SSL) sources such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are much more energy efficient and versatile than legacy lighting technologies, including fluorescent lamps, the adoption of LEDs for lighting products is still very low due to their high cost and the monotone color of the light produced. Today, many commercial LEDs use phosphors to convert some of the violet/blue light to green/yellow/red light for a wide variety of indoor/outdoor applications. This includes not only general illumination for residential and commercial buildings but also other forms of lighting such as automotive, aerospace, street lighting, horticulture, even backlit displays used in portable electronics. However, phosphors are expensive optical materials that can range in price (per kilogram) from 1X to more than 10X that of silver. Producing a consistent high quality white or amber light from blue is especially challenging and typically involves using a large amount of phosphor materials, resulting in high costs.

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Based on the theory of knots and braids, Telescent has developed a robotic fiber optic cross-connect capable of automating the physical layer of connections in data centers.

Fiber optic interconnects are cables made of glass optical fiber with a connector at each end. They have replaced most Cu cables in data centers because of their higher bandwidth, which allows for data transmission at rates of 400 GB/s without significant signal losses. Fiber optic interconnects are the most numerous device in a data center, totaling hundreds of thousands of cables connecting all the servers with switches and storage devices. Today these cables are managed using manual processes, which are highly inefficient, particularly as data centers scale. Hardware upgrades, migrations, scaling, and new customer requirements demand daily managing of interconnects. However, because connections are made manually, with an inherent risk for human error, many companies delay modifying connections, which negatively impacts network performance. Telescent was founded to address this opportunity with a clever, innovative solution.

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Converting regular steel in the world’s leading performing material for lighter and stronger vehicles.

FLASH

A long-standing goal for the U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD) has been to replace the steel in civil and military vehicles with a lighter-weight material that performs better in case of crash and under ballistic attack. Research has shown that a 10% reduction in vehicle weight increases fuel economy from 6% to 8%. To date, efforts to replace steel with aluminum, titanium, magnesium, or carbon composites have not been successful because these materials are from 3 to 30 times more expensive than steel. In addition, their use would involve a complete retooling of vehicle factories, requiring billions of dollars in investment. Flash Steelworks, Inc., formerly known as SFP Works, LLC, is about to turn the dream of lighter, stronger vehicles into reality with an innovation that is brilliant in its simplicity.

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Changing the game for large supply chains through computational optimization of production and distribution.

Optimal Solutions

While working at GE Global Research as a chemical engineer and interfacing with large chemicals companies such as GE Plastics (now known as SABIC), Dr. Vijay Hanagandi had a business idea. He realized that hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved by companies that produce and ship large quantities of any type of product by optimizing production and transportation simultaneously – in a single step instead of relying on heuristic approaches and common logistic practices.

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Compact, portable neutron generators open up new industrial applications.

Adelphi

Over the course of its 20 years of operation, Adelphi Technology, Inc. has pioneered and perfected the design and production of state of the art, compact, and safe neutron generators. The production of a neutron beam might seem like an activity strictly reserved to government and regional sponsored facilities and not something to be manufactured in parallel. That is precisely what makes Adelphi special. Thanks to their impressive technical ability, Adelphi’s scientists have been able to shrink neutron generators to the point of making this technology available to modest-sized research laboratories and businesses, opening up an entire class of applications impossible before.

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Using High Performance Computing to simulate the electromagnetic response of Silicon Photonic devices.

Tech X

Since 1994 when it was founded, Tech-X Corporation (Tech-X) has been a consistent contributor to the mission of the Department of Energy (DOE) through the DOE SBIR/STTR Programs. Tech-X has been very successful at leveraging SBIR awards to deliver technologies that were instrumental in carrying out multiple scientific projects. Over the years, Tech-X has partnered with several DOE National Laboratories to address the most challenging demands in high-performance computational (HPC) software, simulation, and design. With a staff of 40 people between employees and consultants, Tech-X has been at the forefront of HPC code enhancement through porting to modern hardware, such as Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) and high-performance visualization and graphical user interfaces.

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Powering fuel cell electric vehicles with innovative on–site, on–demand refueling hydrogen stations.

Giner

Every scientific discovery, no matter how significant, must overcome a number of barriers before it can be translated to a commercial product. Often, these barriers are necessary steps to maximize efficiency and reliability and lower costs to the point where a commercial market develops. This is certainly the case for proton-exchange membrane (PEM), fuel cells, and electrolyzers, which produce energy from hydrogen for powering hydrogen vehicles, and transform energy back into hydrogen as a form of energy storage.

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High-voltage SiC-based transistors for electric grid power conversion and on-board charging in electric vehicles.

United Silicon Carbide, Inc. (USCi) is a leader in the development of the next generation diodes and transistors making up the building blocks of power conversion circuits, which are designed to convert electricity between different currents, voltage levels, and frequencies. Power conversion is a vital function in today's increasingly electrified world and an indispensable one for integrating intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar into the existing electric grid infrastructure. Power semiconductor devices play a major role in many other fields, including aerospace, telecommunications, and automotive systems, particularly in hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles.

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High-temperature superconducting magnet cables for the next generation of particle accelerators and fusion reactors.

Advanced Conductor Technologies

High-temperature superconductor (HTS) cables offer a potential breakthrough for developing a lower cost path to fusion energy, as well as for the next generation of proton-proton colliders. Current fusion and accelerator magnets are built using low-temperature superconductors (LTS) made of Nb-Ti and Nb3Sn, in which superconductivity breaks down not far above the temperature of liquid helium (4.2 K) and at relatively small applied fields of nearly 16 T. In Fusion Energy applications, limitations in current vs. magnetic field characteristics of LTS result in very large reactor structures like ITER and in associated costs in the range of tens of billions. Because HTS can sustain much larger operating currents at higher magnetic fields than LTS, HTS cables can be used to produce fusion magnets generating fields of over 20 T in a much smaller machine.

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KMLabs’ coherent extreme ultraviolet and soft X-ray table top sources are expected to transform metrology and inspection tools in the semiconductor industry.

KM Labs

KMLabs offers a clear demonstration that commercial success can originate directly from fundamental physics research, even when demand for a product comes predominantly from the scientific community. Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories LLC or KMLabs, Inc. was founded in 1994 by two physics professors at University of Colorado, Henry Kapteyn, now KMLabs’ CTO and co-chairman of the board, and Margaret Murnane, current board member. The idea of creating a company came because of overwhelming requests from other universities and scientific institutions to get help, information, and parts in order to reproduce Kapteyn’s and Murnane’s scientific achievement—the first ultrafast laser capable of pulses lasting just 10 femtoseconds, something considered esoteric until then.

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Noanoparticle ink technology enables 30% efficiency increase in commercial solar cells.

Applied Nanotech

There are two crucial factors preventing our society from harnessing more of the Sun’s unlimited energy and from developing a future free from our current environmental concerns—the solar cells’ manufacturing costs and their low electrical efficiency conversion rate.  The two are interrelated and an improvement in efficiency, even when resulting from a remarkable innovation, might also require a more expensive manufacturing process, precluding a net gain in cost.

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Using 3D printing technology to make post-combustion carbon capture cost-competitive.

ION Engineering (ION)

ION Engineering (ION) was formed in 2008 following an unexpected encounter between Dr. Alfred “Buz” Brown, an entrepreneur with years of experience in leading early-stage technology companies, and a team of postdocs at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. The team of scientists, led by Dr. Jason Bara, had developed an idea about how to drastically improve the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial sources. Dr. Brown’s business experience with startups and technical aptitude for identifying transformational technologies, combined with commitments from Dr. Bara and his technical team, resulted in the formation of ION in 2008. From its initial beginnings, ION’s mission has been to develop novel, proprietary liquid solvent technologies for the capture of CO2 from power plants, refineries, and other industrial sources more efficiently and at lower costs than commercial alternatives.
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Innovative hydropower turbines for low-cost, ecosystem-safe generation of electricity

Situated across the bay from San Francisco, Natel Energy Inc. (Natel) has many aspects in common with the epitome of the Bay Area startup, especially a young, motivated, and enthusiastic staff. On the other hand, Natel Energy operates in a very different technological field than the typical high-tech startup. Natel’s products are not related to software or the internet but to the production of renewable energy through a new concept of ecosystem-friendly hydropower production.
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First commercial, quantum cascade laser for full fingerprinting of atmospheric pollutants

 

Turning a newly-discovered quantum mechanical phenomenon into a commercial product that benefits society is the holy grail of applied science, and by no means a common occurrence. However, this is exactly what Daylight Solutions was able to accomplish in a relatively short time after it was founded in 2005 by three high-tech entrepreneurs.
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Battery-free technology for instant electronic inventory of sensitive items at a distance

Imagine a tag that works similarly to a bar code but can be activated at a much larger distance and can transmit encrypted information without a battery. This is precisely what Radio-frequency (RFID) tags produced by Dirac Solutions Inc. (DSI) can accomplish, playing a crucial role in inventory management of national security items. The RFID technology was discovered decades ago, but Dirac Solutions products are different from other RFID devices. DSI technology overcomes serious technical problems that occur when many RFIDs are close together, around metals and liquids, and in the presence of interfering signals, all of which degrade the RF communications.
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High-frequency electron beam modulating device for next generation ultrafast time-resolved transmission electron microscopes.

 Euclid Techlabs

Sometimes the most notable innovations in science come from linking traditionally separate or independent knowledge. Specifically, synergies happen when mechanisms known and adopted in one scientific domain are modified to produce new concepts in a different domain. Often, such cross cutting approaches need to be encouraged because of the highly specialized fashion in which each scientific field evolves. Yet, sometimes they spur spontaneously as the result of a fortuitous encounter. Euclid TechLabs LLC (Euclid for short) is an R&D small business specializing in the design and development of particle accelerators and their components for high energy and nuclear physics applications.
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Kitware’s open-source software platforms make High Performance Computing modeling and simulation available to small and medium businesses.

Kitware

Unlike for the majority of small businesses that obtain SBIR grants from the Department of Energy (DOE), Kitware’s relationship with the DOE SBIR Program started after the company had already worked on several DOE projects under direct contract with DOE’s National Laboratories, specifically Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and the Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).  The relationship between Kitware and DOE dates back 20 years, and it was instrumental to the development of three major software platforms offered by the company: VTK, ParaView, and CMB. Kitware distinguishes itself from other SBIR recipients in another interesting way—Kitware’s business model involves developing large and complex open source software platforms, which some might consider incompatible with a private business’ objective to generate profits.
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Cybersecurity technology for high-speed network infrastructures and high-performance computing centers.

Reservoir Labs

Reservoir Labs is a great example of a small business that was able to develop and manufacture a complete product and to achieve significant sales to a diverse clientele by leveraging SBIR grants, without additional 3rd party private investment. Such an achievement “required bootstrapping and use of internal resources”, Dr. Richard Lethin, President of Reservoir Labs explains. Nevertheless, Reservoir Labs’ example shows that in certain cases SBIR grants alone, together with the small business’ determination, can succeed in bringing a new product to the market.
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Portable solid state detector allows first responders to a radiation incident to identify a wide range of radioactive sources.

RMD

Based in Watertown MA, Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc. (RMD) was founded in 1974 and, since 2008, has operated as a subsidiary of Dynasil Corporation of America, serving as the incubator for new product innovations. From its early days, RMD’s mission has been twofold: 1) perform world-class research and, 2) transition technologies from research to commercial products. To meet these objectives, RMD adopts a variety of commercialization strategies, depending on the particular technology and the most appropriate business model. RMD performs R&D in an impressive range of scientific fields, from space science to particle physics, and from nuclear security and safeguard to clinical diagnoses and environmental research. Within these areas, RMD develops advanced functional materials, instrumentation, electronics, and software for imaging and augmented reality.
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Wave-powered desalination system will provide communities in developing countries with clean fresh water at a competitive cost.

RME

When we think of hydropower and the harnessing of energy carried by ocean waves, we might picture devices engineered to transform wave energy in electricity to be pumped into the National electric grid. However, the economic developments associated with hydropower go far beyond the production of electricity. In fact, as stated in a recent report issued by the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in addition to producing electricity, many of today’s hydropower facilities provide flood control, irrigation, and water supply, delivering public health and environmental benefits, in addition to electricity.
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Seismic sensors based on optical interferometry provide unmatched sensitivity for detection and analysis of underground nuclear explosions.

Silicon Audio

Detecting and identifying events associated with the development of foreign nuclear weapons are central goals for the U.S. DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and other government agencies. These objectives rely on advanced technologies including detection of radiation and radioactive particles, satellite imaging, and seismic monitoring, which all complement each other in nature. For example, while radionuclide monitoring has the definite advantage of being able to confirm whether an explosion resulted from a nuclear test, if the nuclear explosion is detonated underground, the radioactive particles and gases are largely contained, and seismology becomes, in this case, the tool of choice for learning about the event.
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SiNode Systems founding team in Times Square after ringing the NASDAQ closing bell in April 2013.

SiNode

Among clean-tech startups, SiNode Systems Inc. needs little technical introduction because its products address an obvious need in today’s market, a need anybody can agree on — a faster charging, longer lasting lithium ion battery. Lithium ion batteries are the go-to battery type for most consumer and home electronics, due to their high energy density and low self-discharge. The electric vehicle market is perhaps set to be the biggest consumer of rechargeable lithium ion batteries, with most newer plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles opting to use them over the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in older hybrid vehicles.
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High-precision digitizers with up to 40 channels for high-density data acquisition systems.

Skutek

SkuTek had an exciting and unusual beginning as a company, which perhaps is not surprising in the world of experimental physics startups. It was founded in 2000 by Wojtek Skulski and his wife Joanna while Dr. Skulski was working at the University of Rochester on the PHOBOS experiment, carried out at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) located at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). PHOBOS, an experiment devised to search for the formation of Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP) recreating the scenario that occurred at about a micro-second after the Big Bang, was in need of a critical upgrade to improve the time-of-flight resolution, which is a critical parameter in discriminating elementary particles of different mass.
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XIA’s invention and development of radiation digitizers has been a major innovation in the field of spectroscopy.

Xia

XIA deserves to be credited as one of the experimental physics startups that in the 90’s revolutionized the acquisition and processing of x-ray, gamma-ray, and other radiation signals, promoting an unprecedented development in spectroscopy capabilities in Universities, National Laboratories, and Industry. Signal processing is key to extracting meaningful information from any type of detector and digitizing the signal allows scientists to use computer processing, thereby performing analyses that would be tedious or impossible to carry out manually. An example is the typical needle-in-the-haystack problem often encountered in High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics experiments, where the event to be studied may happen only once every billion counts, making manual analysis impractical.
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