With total silence from the EEStor firm and its known associates one bit of news has made it out. To summarize in the briefest way – EEStor is progressing.
That maximum condensing comes from the Bariumtitanate.blogspot.com where news and posts are just difficult to get. A click over there I’m sure would be welcome. Having a blog with a single topic must be frustrating, even here with the full spectrum of energy and fuel some days getting a worthy post out can be a challenge.
On with the news. Bill Joy or William Nelson Joy famed for his exploits as a programmer notably the vi program that is used to edit code, and as a co-founder for Sun Microsystems is a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. It’s also being reported that Joy is a principal in the firm’s investment in EEStor. When Joy talks about EEStor ears perk up.
Last Thursday April 21 2011 Joy attended the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. During the open question and answer period an audience member asked about the progress at EEStor. Joy spent about 5 minutes discussing the EEStor effort in very general terms and offered his own thoughts.
Joy confirmed that Kleiner Perkins is still invested in EEStor and hope remains EEStor will get to market. Meanwhile, Joy is still looking and investing in other energy storage mediums.
The Bariumtitanate.blogspot author has also prepared a transcript of the conversation Joy had with Jason Pontin who is the editor in chief of MIT’s Technology Review.
Noteworthy quotes heavily edited: “I like to think the future isn’t gonna just be electrochemistry – that we could have solid state energy storage, something that’s based on you know maybe early 20th century stuff. . . And EEStor is an example of something solid state. I always say in investing I prefer solids to liquids and liquids to gases. And we prefer… semiconductors is our favorite kind of solid. . . Whereas a solid state, it is the basis of electronics and it can last basically forever.”
“Energy storage is the same thing. I’d like to see it go from liquid phase chemistry essentially to solid-state physics. That would be very desirable. And then you limit cases of energy storage that should be solid state.”
“. . . when we had this list of 25 grand challenges…when we went out looking for things, we didn’t think we would find them all. And if we find investable things that are (predicated?) on one of those grand challenges, we don’t necessarily expect it to work. If the list of 25, 10 of them work, that would be a miracle. Because they are set to be very aspirational. So solid-state energy storage would be on the list. And that’s an example of an investment that is trying to …with an improvement on an existing technology essentially because barium titanate is used as a material, common material in capacitors.”
“One of our sayings is…we prefer things that work in practice to things that work in theory. It’s nice if they work in theory but we can always invent the theory afterwards.”
“. . . we can’t always simulate things and we are willing to lose a couple millions dollars to try and see if some effect is plausible or will work ….that we don’t have a close form computer simulation. But it’s plausible to people trained in the art that it’s not…..they can’t explain to me on a napkin why it wouldn’t work.”
After the conversation with Pontin, Joy spent over an hour taking question from a small crowd.
So, are you still hopeful about EEStor?
Oh yeah. I mean these things are hard so there is always a chance they won’t work. But we’re very uh……We’ll see. I don’t know anything that isn’t in the press.
(Okay . . .)
“Now what they (EEStor) are proposing to do is wild. And there’s lots of reasons in which some of these things could fail to be commercialized. I’m not saying whether it’s worked or not and if we’ve announced it or not, I’m just saying it’s hard. What they’re trying to do…obviously, it’s took years…to get…. since they….first….it’s not easy to do these things. So…but the worthwhile things usually are hard and they always take longer.”
One can take most anything except negative results and failure at EEStor from Joy’s comments. The technology may well be working at lab produced unit scale and the commercial scale issues are just problems, many perhaps, extremely difficult perhaps, or just the resources as a startup coming from the lab to mass production hasn’t found the experience and know how, if there is any to be found.
EEStor has a way to go, that much is clear. Prior optimism seems based in enthusiasm rather than the cold hard design, engineering, and process development needed to get from research to mass production.
Hope is eternal after all. But one thing is very clear, the intellectual property is very safe and that competition or reverse engineering is going to very difficult indeed. EEStor may as well leak a bit of real time status – it can’t hurt and would only help.
It’s not a lot of news or even good news. But there isn’t any bad news.