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ARPA-E awarding $24M to two SCALEUP projects: battery technology and methane detection

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced $24 million in funding for 2 projects as part of the first stage of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) program. These SCALEUP “Fast-Track” teams, Natron Energy and Bridger Photonics, will receive $19 million and $5 million, respectively, to further their commercialization efforts in sodium-ion battery development and methane detection technologies, respectively.

SCALEUP is a first-of-its-kind initiative that builds on ARPA-E’s primary research and development (R&D) focus, supporting the scaling of high-risk and potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications. The program works to take promising energy technologies to the pre-pilot stage of the path to market and ultimately lead to realized commercial impact.

SCALEUP “Fast-Track” teams applied under the initial solicitation at their choice but were given the opportunity to justify the urgency of their funding need in order to receive funding at an accelerated pace relative to the full program timeline.

ARPA-E developed the “Fast-Track” in response to disruptions in the investor and R&D financing communities caused by COVID-19, as well as related capital concerns on the part of a number of SCALEUP applicants. Teams not selected for the “Fast-Track” option are still eligible and under consideration for funding under the full SCALEUP program, for which selections are anticipated in January 2021.

Natron Energy: Domestic Manufacturing of Sodium-Ion Batteries - $19,883,951. The project aims to scale up production of Natron Energy’s Prussian blue electrode sodium-ion batteries by 30x to 18,000 trays per year, and fully de-risk the resulting supply chain and products through continuous production and sales for six months.

The primary product is an 8 kilowatt, 50V battery tray for use in data centers to manage peak compute load and provide critical backup power. Natron’s tray provides data center operators up to 2x higher power density and 10x longer cycle life than existing products, along with superior safety performance.

To build the supply chain, Natron and its partners will adapt industry-standard chemicals synthesis and battery manufacturing equipment and processes to produce Natron’s cells and battery systems for data center applications. The project will also position Natron’s Prussian blue electrode sodium-ion batteries for emerging applications, such as electric vehicle fast charging and dispatchable storage for grid power.

Bridger Photonics, Inc.: Scaling Disruptive Methane Leak Detection and Quantification- $4,572,000. Bridger Photonics, Inc. developed the next generation of methane leak detection and quantification, Gas Mapping LiDAR (GML). This innovative technology scans oil and gas infrastructure to detect and quantify leak magnitude using an aerial platform eliminating the need for costly conventional ground-crew site visits.

To scale and expand GML operations, Bridger proposes to (1) fully automate job planning, data processing and management tools; (2) finalize second-generation hardware designs with improved sensitivity and accuracy and scale manufacturing; (3) advance predictive algorithm capabilities; and (4) integrate into customer operations.

The project will dramatically improve oil and gas operational efficiency for leak detection and emissions tracking, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and secure US technological leadership in emissions detection and quantification.


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