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University Research Spinoff To Build Manufacturing Plant

Jay Whitacre (Carnegie Mellon University)

Jay Whitacre (Carnegie Mellon University)

Aquion Energy Inc. in Pittsburgh, a developer of sodium ion batteries and energy storage systems, says it will build its first large-scale manufacturing plant in southwestern Pennsylvania. Aquion Energy that makes energy storage systems for electrical power grids expects to create over 400 high-tech manufacturing jobs by the end of 2015.

The company’s systems are designed to store energy from intermittent sources such as renewable solar or wind power, and make the power available when needed by grid customers. The basic materials — sodium and water-based electrolytes — says Aquion Energy, are inexpensive and use no toxic or hazardous materials, which makes them safe to install in many locations. The systems so far have demonstrated more than 5,000 discharge cycles, with performance lasting more than a year of deep cycle use.

The company’s technology was developed in the lab of Jay Whitacre (pictured right), a professor of materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Whitacre’s research focused on batteries for stationary applications, such as electrical power grids, that do not have severe the size and weight constraints of car batteries.

Whitacre patented his processes and founded the company that became Aquion Energy, which licensed the technology from Carnegie Mellon. He still serves as the company’s Chief Technology Officer

Aquion Energy plans to lease space in a large existing facility in East Huntingdon Township in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 42 miles from Pittsburgh, with build-out construction expected to take the remainder of 2012. Product manufacturing is expected to begin in 2013.

The company received a $5 million Recovery Act (stimulus) grant, as well as equity investments from venture capital companies Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Advanced Technology Ventures.

Read more: Battery Developer, Utility to Partner on Grid Energy Storage

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