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SuGanit systems developing speedier biomass-to-ethanol technology

SuGanit Systems wants to be among the first to produce ethanol from cellulosic biomass – the inedible parts of plants – and the Ohio Third Frontier Commission is betting it will be successful.

In February, SuGanit, founded in Reston Va., but now growing its presence at the University of Toledo's Center for Technological Entrepreneurship and Innovation, received a $2-million Ohio Third Frontier grant to build a pilot plant using a new pretreatment process that breaks down the tougher parts of plants so that they can be converted into sugars, fermented, and made into ethanol.

It's the third Third Frontier Grant that the company has received or shared since its founding in 2006, says President and Founder Praveen Paripati.

The partnership with the University of Toledo, which developed an early technology for pre-treating cellulosic biomass, has led to continued development of the process and a collaboration that should result in a pilot plant by the end of the year, Paripati says.

Cellulosic materials, unlike edible products, typically take a long time to convert into sugars using existing methods, Paripati says.

"If we don't do some preprocessing it can take a few weeks to a few months to break the biomass down," he says. "So the trick is to find a mechanism by which you can break it down. And break it down without producing a lot of bad side effects. The innovation comes in an ionic liquid pretreatment technology that makes it possible for enzymes to break down biomass into sugars efficiently, within 24 to 36 hours."

The pilot plant is intended to scale up the technology to process about half a ton to one ton of biomass a day. 

"The next scale would probably be 40 to 50 tons a day, a scale which would end up producing a million gallons of cellulosic ethanol or other products. And a larger commercial scale would be anywhere from 500 tons to 2,500 tons a day."

The company currently has four employees at UT and at its Toledo laboratory. Additionally, Paripati says Third Frontier and U.S. Department of Energy grants have enabled SuGanit to fund three students workers. SuGanit plans plans to add eight more as it develops the pilot unit and reaches full operation.

Source: Praveen Paripati, SuGanit Systems
Writer: Gene Monteith

U of Toledo, Dow Corning, await word on $46-million solar development grant

Ohio's status as a leader in photovoltaics could shine brighter should a $46 million US Department of Energy grant come through.

The $46 million grant, expected to be announced by early 2011, would be shared between the University of Toledo and Dow Corning Corp. Earlier this year, two paired to form the Solar Valley Research Enterprise (SVRE), which submitted the grant application to the DOE with wide support from the two states' governors, Congressional rosters and private industry.

The grant would be part of $125 million in funds available though the DOE's Photovoltaics Manufacturing Initiative, which seeks to establish three national centers of expertise in the field by 2015.

Split evenly between the SVRE partners, half of the funds would be used to establish the Photovoltaics Manufacturing Initiative Center on the Toledo campus, separate from the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization based there, but working in conjunction with it.

The Wright Center was created in 2007 and supports research and test locations located at the University of Toledo, Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University.

"I tell people the SVRE would be like the Wright Center on steroids," says Rick Stansley, co-director of the Wright Center and chairman of the UT Board of Trustees.

He estimates a direct impact of 800 jobs added to the area, and an indirect impact six or seven times as large.

The partnership has already received grants from both Ohio and Michigan, including a $3.5 million grant from Ohio Third Frontier. Along with the Ohio "node" of the SVRE, Stansley said the grant money would be used to set up a similar center in Midland, Mich., near the corporate headquarters of Dow.

Both sites would work with a cluster of private companies, government labs and universities to further solar cell development, making it more competitive with traditional energy sources. The centers would also help guide new solar panel start-ups in the northwest Ohio-southern Michigan area.

Source: Rick Stansley, Wright Center for Photovoltaics
Writer: Dave Malaska


Dovetail Solar expecting $6 million to $7 million in sales for 2010

Founded in 1995, Dovetail Solar and Wind began modestly, installing solar systems for rural-Ohio residents seeking to go off-the-grid. Solar panels were incredibly expensive — but still a substantial savings for many who could not afford to have a utility company run power to their homes.

A little federal and state legislation changed everything. For the better.

"Prior to 2006, it was almost all residential," says Dovetail vice president Alan Frasz. "The (Energy Policy Act of 2005) offered a 30 percent tax credit. Businesses took notice."

Then, a second tremendous boost for the company, Frasz says, came from the renewable portfolio standard bill that Ohio approved in 2008, requiring 25 percent of the state's energy to be generated from alternative and renewable sources.

"We doubled our business," he adds. "We've been growing quite a bit in the last in few years."

A member of the University of Toledo Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator, Dovetail now provides energy systems for solar electric, solar thermal and wind — and has installed 175 systems such across Ohio and its neighboring states.

"We expect to finish the year between six and seven millions dollars in sales," Frasz says. "In a worldwide economy, the beauty of renewable energy is that the wind and sun are free. They don't put out any pollution … and renewable energy creates clean, green jobs in Ohio, as opposed to other places."

There are now offices in all corners of Ohio: Athens, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. In 2006, there were just a handful of people employed with the company. There are now 32 full time employees, but Frasz says that number could hit 50 by the end of 2011.

"Rather than having this money going out of the state and burning in a smoke-stack, let's take some of that and put it into renewable energy," Frasz says.

Source: Alan Frasz, Dovetail Solar
Writer: Colin McEwen


Nextronex commercializes new solar power conversion system

A solar array gathers sunlight for electricity. But something has to convert that energy from direct current to alternating current before it can be fed into an electric power grid. Toledo-based Nextronex Power Systems says it has come up with a simpler and more efficient way of doing that..

Nextronex's target customers are utility-size solar installations. While competition is stiff, Peter Gerhardinger, the company's chief technology officer, says Nextronex has an advantage over suppliers that provide only inverters -- the box that converts DC to AC.
 
"They rely on the integrator to determine how he's going to wire it, how he's going to lay it out. And so there's spawned a whole lot of intermediate type products," he says. "We took a fresh approach and, based on customer feedback, decided there's a need for a wiring kit that is not only the inverter, but that combines all the switch gear, all the fusing, all the monitoring into an easy-to-assemble system."

The resulting cabinet is smaller than most in the industry, he says, and can be easily installed. Not just that, but rather than relying on only one big inverter, the Nextronex system uses multiple inverters that switch on and off as energy from the sun ebbs and flows during the day, resulting in less loss of power than typical one-box systems.

Nextronex's system is in use currently at the 180th Air National Guard base in Toledo and at a site in Roswell New Mexico, with another three projects nearing implementation. The company has received $1.4 million local investments, including those from the Science, Technology and Innovation Enterprises and Rocket Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Regional Growth Partnership.

The company was formed in 2008 and currently employs 10, says company founder James Olzak. But Olczak says Netronex expects to have "greater than several dozen people next year at this time."

Sources: James Olzak, Peter Gerhardinger and Scott Thompson, Nextronex
Writer: Gene Monteith

Solargystics sets sights on more affordable solar power

The earth pulls in more energy from the sun in one hour than is consumed in one year. That's an estimated 970 trillion kilowatt hours of energy every day. But solar power contributes less than one-half of 1 percent of the world's daily power generation.

Solargystics, a Sylvania-based startup solar company with lofty goals, would like to change that by making solar energy more affordable for everyone.

Solargystics has developed patent-pending technology aimed at lowering the cost of thin film photovoltaic production. The company would like to see nothing more than people ditching the shingles on top of their homes in favor of cost-efficient solar panels.

The idea — while not yet on the market — certainly has generated some interest. The company is working on its process with the Wright Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization at the University of Toledo — where the company has access to testing equipment it couldn't obtain on its own. The researchers, originally from Michigan, moved the company to Ohio in 2007, hoping to obtain funding from the state's Third Frontier program.

Even though that grant proposal was denied, David Hiatt, the company's chief financial officer, says Solargystics is still seeking funding. And company officials are still optimistic.

"We're like everybody else," he says. "It's tough to be a startup with limited funding."

The company currently employs four people, but contracts a number of people in the Toledo area, Hiatt says, adding that more employees will be added when the product reaches commercialization.

"It's coming along — just slowly," he adds.

Source: David Hiatt, Solargystics
Writer: Colin McEwen

Toledo-based Seavival gets traction with patented first-responder kit

"Be prepared."

That's what Seavival tells its customers. And, in a tough economy, it's a lesson the Toledo-based emergency equipment company has learned for itself.

The company has developed a patented first-response kit that has attracted quite the attention. If a contract with the U.S. military is approved, it could mean an additional 100 jobs for Northwest Ohio.

It's been slow road to success, says Seavival CEO Brian Friedman. He has dedicated more than 40 years to emergency medical kits, starting while in high school as a hospital volunteer in Miami, Fla.

Today, the company is on the brink of massive growth. "(The military contract) could be a potentially big thing for us," he says.

There's good reason for Friedman's enthusiasm. The company's staple product, The Professional, can hold up to 1,800 cubic inches — and can be mounted on a vehicle (including a motorcycle) or used as a backpack. He says there's a big demand for such a product. The other portion of Seavival's business is selling the systems, or the contents of the emergency medical kits.

The five-year-old company currently employs only a few, but more positions may be added. Soon.

Seavival is now working with the Toledo Fire Department for testing and validation, Friedman says, adding that in addition to the military, customers might include marine and industrial organizations, as well as fire and rescue operations.

The company received some marketing and strategic assistance from the Regional Growth Partnership. Seavival has also recently partnered with the University of Toledo technology innovation group. The company also works with the international division of the Ohio Department of Development, seeking a customer base abroad.

"But we could use a lot more help," Friedman says. "Small companies like our ours are totally incapable of maintaining the cost of marketing for an international effort without help from the state."

Source: Brian Friedman
Writer: Colin McEwen


New kid on the block plans to let the sun shine in on Toledo's economy

There's another solar player coming to Toledo. And it's making no secret of its big plans to shed additional light on the local economy.

California-based Sphere Renewable Energy Corp. has developed Buckeye Silicon at the University of Toledo with a blueprint to manufacture lots of polycrystalline-silicon production modules — poly-silicon is a critical ingredient in the production of solar panels.

BeSi's headquarters will be located on the UT campus, but the manufacturing facility will be situated on the UT Technology Corridor. Full-scale production is expected by the end of 2010 — and so is the addition of as many as 150 jobs within 18 months.

Mark Erickson, COO and senior vice president of Buckeye Silicon, says there are a few reasons the company decided to set up shop in Northwest Ohio. First he credits the solar industry already in place for making the area attractive and UT for being a leader in renewable energy research.

"Northwest Ohio was attractive because of our ability to tap into a skilled workforce," Erickson says. "Without too much training we're able to get skilled workers to operate our facility."

He also points to Toledo's geographic position -- a major interstate system, railway system and a deepwater port make the region attractive.

Erickson says cooperation between local businesses, higher education and the public sector in Ohio is unprecedented. The state has committed to giving BeSi $2.7 million in loans to get started. The Rocket Ventures client also received a $50,000 Rocket Ventures Ignite! grant.

Source: Mark Erickson, Buckeye Silicon
Writer: Colin McEwen


It took a village to bring this new, painless ulcer treatment to market

Almost 2 million Americans suffer from pressure ulcers — also know as bed sores. And almost $1.3 billion is dedicated annually for that treatment. A new device capable of relieving chronic pain (with a lower price tag) is now a reality.

But it took a neighborhood of Ohio innovators in the state for the Valtronic Advanced Photobiotherapy Device to make it to the marketplace.

The Cleveland-based Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) provided engineering expertise, patented the design and developed working prototypes; the University of Toledo's Department of Bioengineering developed the optical system; the UT College of Medicine conducted clinical trials. Valtronic Technologies USA , of Solon -- which specializes in medical industrial products -- handled commercialization, manufacture and distribution.

Greg Krizman, senior director of marketing for MAGNET, exudes pride while talking about the Valtronic Advanced Photobiotherapy Device.

He's also proud of MAGNET's role. "We're a one-stop shop for manufacturers who wish to grow their businesses," Krizman says. "Whatever people need to make their operations go faster, better and smarter, we have people to make that happen."

Krizman says one of the consequences of the recession is that companies have often been forced to lay off engineers. MAGNET serves companies with engineers on an "as-needed basis."

The partnership of organizations received some assistance from the Ohio Third Frontier initiative. About $1.3 million in assistance.

About 100 units have been sold to date. But those involved are optimistic about the product. Home care clinics and nursing homes are more likely to afford the portable device at $20,000 a unit — compared with the predecessor's $70,000 price tag.

Source: Greg Krizman, MAGNET
Writer: Colin McEwen

UT has both feet planted as it helps build solar industry cluster

Arising from expertise within the glass industry and the abundance of cheap natural gas needed to melt silica for solar modules, the Toledo area has long been recognized for incubating advanced and alternative energy players.

In the thick of things has been the University of Toledo. So, it's only fitting that when it came time for the State of Ohio to establish a new Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization (PVIC), UT was a logical choice.

PVIC was founded in January 2007 with $18.6 million in Ohio Third Frontier funding and matching contributions of $30 million from federal agencies and university and industrial partners. The center -- which also has hubs Ohio State University, and Bowling Green State University -- has become a state of the art laboratory with three purposes, says Robert Collins, professor of physics and co-director of the PVIC: to help new companies commercialize their products, to help existing companies improve their products and expand product lines, and to build a large solar cluster in northwest Ohio.

The PVIC serves as both a testing ground for new applications and a resource for commercialization of those techniques. The center is now working with 30 companies from around the country -- including a start-up from Silicon Valley, Collins says.

The center has led the way in development of new thin-film technologies that can be produced more quickly and less expensively than traditional solar films. Meanwhile, UT is working on next-generation films using nanostructures, recently hiring two experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to lead the work.

Source: Robert Collins, University of Toledo
Writer: Gene Monteith


Juice Technologies gearing up for "smart grids" and plug-in vehicles

Juice Technologies is helping the University of Toledo "go green." But that project -- an effort to audit and upgrade the campus's energy infrastructure -- is only a fraction of what the company believes awaits it within an evolving automotive and electric utility industry.

At the University of Toledo, Juice Technologies is helping the campus both with an extensive energy audit and in managing the evolution of the institution as one that will, in the future, leave no "carbon footprint."

Rich Housh, Juice's president and CEO, says that project is paying the start-up's bills for now. But he sees a future in which his company is also leader in management of plug-in vehicle charging and energy management technologies that tie into utility "smart-grid" infrastructures.

Developed under the Plug Smart brand, products include the Plug Smart Pal and Plug Smart Solo, cordset devices that can be carried in a car's trunk to allow charging anywhere. Both collect, store, report and calculate emission statistics that can be viewed at a Plug Smart-hosted website. The technology is expected to be in the marketplace sometime next year. Meanwhile, the company is advancing charging station technology that can communicate directly with a utility company to authenticate the vehicle and owner as well as information needed to bill the owner through his or her home utility bill.

The 12-person, Columbus-based company -- which appropriately shares a location with the Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research -- is also developing prototypes of a networkable energy management system to let homes and businesses tie into a utility company's advanced meter infrastructure using a web server to view energy statistics, configure their own energy strategies, and control their usage.

Source: Rich Housh, Juice Technologies
Writer: Gene Monteith


New UT campus to accelerate advanced and alternative energy, jobs

The University of Toledo is already well known for its role in incubating young alternative energy companies, like solar products manufacturer Xunlight. Now it has a campus devoted purely to the development and commercialization of advanced and alternative energy technologies.

Last week, UT signed the first two leases for its new Scott Park Campus of Energy and Innovation, dedicated in September as the university's newest technology accelerator, says Chuck Lehnert, vice president of facilities and construction. The university calls the 177-acre campus the first in the country committed solely to advancing renewable, alternative and sustainable energies.

"Our university's mission is to improve the human condition," Lehnert says. UT's pioneer work in new energy options has made "renewable and sustainable energy part of our DNA. Scott Park demonstrates our commitment."

The campus will serve as an alternative energy laboratory for teaching, research and demonstration and an accelerator for new ideas coming to the marketplace. The hope is that resulting new companies will locate within the UT technology corridor and spur economic growth in northwest Ohio, Lehnert says.

While the Scott Park Campus hopes to make an economic impact on northwest Ohio, it hopes to make no impact on the environment. A 10-kilowatt solar array and a 100-foot wind turbine have already been installed at Scott Park. And there are plans for a larger, 1.12 megawatt solar array to be installed on eight acres near the UT soccer field. The goal: a neutral carbon footprint.

Source: Chuck Lehnert, University of Toledo
Writer: Gene Monteith



University of Toledo spinoff makes mark with blood leakage treatment

A plasma volume expander may sound like something plucked from the pages of a science fiction novel, but to a trio of University of Toledo researchers working on the innovative lifesaving drug, it's very real.

After working with a patient in 1999 whose blood pressure was critically unstable as plasma seeped out of her blood vessels, frustrated UT doctors Joseph Shapiro and Ragheb Assaly sought out a treatment.

They teamed up with UT biochemist J. David Dignam and found a solution in their plasma volume expander, Pegylated albumin -- or PEG-Alb as it is known as in the biotech biz.

Toledo-based ADS Biotechnology was born.

The researchers created a molecule similar to the native albumin already present in the blood, but with a larger diameter to prevent leakage into vital organs that can cause serious injury or death.

PEG-Alb is the only known treatment for CLS -- a biomedical stat that is bound to drum up some serious attention… and cash.

The UT college of medicine -- where Shapiro is the department chair and Assaly is a pulmonary-critical care specialist -- has contributed $1 million. The northwest Ohio-based Rocket Ventures Ignite! Grant was for $50,000, then Rocket Ventures gave a $250,000 investment courtesy of the Third Frontier Program. The U.S. Department of Defense committed $200,000.

Mary Shapiro, chief financial officer of ADS Biotechnology, says PEG-Alb could be a crucial advancement for military medicine as a resuscitation fluid on the front lines.

The firm is now working to set up clinical trials in hopes of marketing PEG-Alb in the next three to five years.

Source: Mary Shapiro
Writer: Colin McEwen

Cleveland firm develops new cardiac disease treatment, plans to hire 30-50

There's a glimmer of hope for "no-option" cardiovascular patients, thanks to the work being done by a Cleveland-based medical device company.

Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in America. For many sufferers, traditional treatments prove ineffective, leaving the patient with no practical options.

Now, advances in stem cell research and innovations developed by Arteriocyte Medical Systems, Inc., promise to give these so-called "no-option" patients a new lease on life. Arteriocyte is currently testing proprietary adult-derived stem cell therapies for use in surgery. The technology will allow a surgeon to harvest stem cells and platelets from a patient's own body for immediate use.

"Our bodies naturally build all the cells and tissues necessary to repair injury," explains CEO Don Brown. "By harvesting and redelivering therapeutically derived cells, we can affect repair of tissues damaged by poor blood flow."

In April, the company announced the receipt of a $4.99-million award courtesy of Ohio's Third Frontier Research Commercialization Program. Brown says that the state funding will allow the company to conduct efficacy studies of its bedside blood fractionation device for treatment of cardiac disease and also amputation prevention. Research partners within the state include The Cleveland Clinic, The Ohio State University and The University of Toledo.

Brown anticipates that the grant will lead to the generation of 30 new jobs during the next three years, and 50 during the next six. Success of the technologies could lead to $150 million in revenue within six years, he adds.

Source: Don Brown
Writer: Douglas Trattner

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