The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship identified eight startups that are best suited for disrupting energy tech and innovation. Photo courtesy of Rice Alliance

In honor of CERAWeek, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship hosted its annual Energy Venture Day.

After over 50 startup pitches and more than 300 meetings, venture investors identified eight startups that are the most-promising companies on a path to innovate and disrupt the energy ecosystem.

The 2023 Energy Venture Day's Most-Promising Startup winners were:

AeroShield Materials

Graphic via aeroshield.tech

Hyde Park, Massachusetts-based AeroShield Materials is creating thermally insulating transparent inserts. The inserts are only four millimeters of AeroShield's material and, when placed inside a double-pane window, provides 65 percent more energy efficiency.

Columbia Power Technologies (C-Power)

Image via cpower.co

C-Power, based in Charlottesville, Virgina, has a technology that harnesses the power of the ocean.

"C-Power delivers this renewable energy resource to the world, both through low-power solutions that bring energy and the cloud to the sea and large-scale solutions that help decarbonize terrestrial grids," the company's website reads.

EarthEn

Graphic via earthen.energy

Chandler, Arizona-based EarthEn is focused on long duration energy storage solutions that use CO2 in a closed loop to store 4 to 100 hours of energy at a low cost. The SaaS tools — with artificial intelligence and machine learning — optimize peak demand pricing and use predictive analysis to enable grid resiliency.

Group1

Photo via Twitter

Group 1, based in Austin, is focused on the commercialization of potassium-ion batteries. The core technology originates from the labs of University of Texas at Austin professor JB Goodenough, co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery.

Ionada Carbon Solutions

Photo via ionada.com

Houston-based Ionada, a member of Halliburton Labs, has created a technology that can remove up to 99 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions for the energy, marine, and e-fuels, according to the company.

"Our engineers have more than a century of combined expertise in reducing emissions for the power generation, chemical, road, rail, air and marine industries. We are here to help you find the best sustainable solution to reduce your emissions," reads the website.

H Quest Vanguard

Photo courtesy of Halliburton

Another Halliburton Labs member H Quest Vanguard, headquartered in Pittsburgh, has developed an electrically powered chemical conversion platform that leverages Microwave Plasma Pyrolysis to liberate zero-CO2 hydrogen from natural gas using only a quarter of energy required by electrolysis, while coproducing a high-value carbon or petrochemical coproduct.

Pressure Corp

Photo by Anton Petrus/Getty

Houston-based Pressure Corp is developing waste pressure power systems to help midstream gas companies solve how they reduce emissions by providing the technology, capital and expertise required to achieve their environmental, social and governance goals.

STARS Technology

Photo via starsh2.com

Based in Richland, Washington, STARS Technology Corp. is commercializing advanced micro-channel chemical process technology that originally was designed for NASA and the Department of Energy. The company's reactors and heat exchangers are compact, energy-efficient, and more.

The Rice Alliance has named its second annual cohort. Photo via Getty Images

5 Houston energy tech companies named to Rice accelerator

seeing green

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship has announced the 17 companies joining its second accelerator — and the program didn't have to venture very far for some of them.

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator named the early- to mid-stage startups that will participate in its second annual class — five of which are based in Houston:

  • CLS Wind is developing a unique system to lift any size wind turbine component to any height using smaller-capacity cranes, an efficient, safe and economical solution to a lack of available high-capacity cranes and vessels.
  • Dsider is developing a low code solution for climate minded organizations to visualize and analyze their carbon pathways to plan, prioritize and operate sustainably and economically.
  • Emission Critical is developing carbon accounting and management software as a service to help enterprises solve end-to-end carbon footprinting with minimum effort
  • NanoTech is developing advanced materials to help businesses and individuals solve fireproofing and thermal insulation challenges with new world particles.
  • Pressure Corp is developing waste pressure power systems to help midstream gas companies solve how they reduce emissions by providing the technology, capital and expertise required to achieve their environmental, social and governance goals.

The 10-week program kicks off at the university’s Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum in September, and concludes on Demo Day on Nov. 17. While mostly virtual, the program will welcome the complete cohort to Houston three times throughout the accelerator.

The full cohort of companies — which come from seven states and four countries — has already collectively raised more than $54.5 million. Over the 10 weeks, the companies will receive support and mentorship to help them raise funding, launch pilots, win adoption into the marketplace, and more.

The 2022 cohort specializes across the spectrum of clean energy, including advanced materials, digital technology for energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, geothermal energy, hydrogen, waste heat to power, wave energy, and wind energy. The rest of the cohort includes:

  • Atargis Energy, based in Colorado, is developing an innovative twin hydrofoil-based wave energy converter technology combined with a proprietary feedback control system that combines real-time sensors, predictive algorithms and machine learning to make possible the first predictable, low-cost, utility-scale baseload electricity sourced from ocean waves for utilities and other electricity providers.
  • Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Eden GeoPower Inc. is developing electrical reservoir stimulation technology to help geothermal, petroleum and mineral resource developers solve issues with low-permeability reservoirs by effectively increasing permeability in a way that uses less water and emits less CO2 than traditional stimulation methods.
  • FuelX has developed solid-state hydrogen power systems to help transportation manufacturers meet their customers’ growing performance requirements by using high-energy-density systems that outperform batteries and other pure hydrogen solutions. When coupled with a green hydrogen raw material, FuelX systems provide zero-carbon power.
  • GeoGen Technologies — a Canadian company — is developing a new kind of geothermal that allows oil and gas companies to convert end of life oil and gas wells to economic geothermal.
  • Durham, North Carolina-based GOLeafe uses organic materials and non-energy or capital-intensive equipment toproduce graphene oxide — the world's strongest, thinnest and most conductive material — through a process that’s 10 times more cost efficient and eco-friendly using readily available materials such as hay, sugar and wood chips.
  • LiNa Energy is commercializing safe, sustainable, solid-state sodium batteries that contain no lithium or cobalt.
  • Luminescent, based in the United Kingdom, is building an isothermal expansion heat engine for waste heat recovery along gas transmission pipelines.
  • Nobel improves fuel efficiency for gas-fired power plants with drop in, reliable supersonic combustion technology.
  • Quino Energy — based in California — produces low-cost, long-lifetime aqueous organic flow batteries for grid storage applications. The charge is stored in specially designed organic molecules called quinones, which are produced from cheap chemical precursors in a proprietary, zero-waste process.
  • Viridly, based in Texas,is developing geothermal power plants with patent-pending generator technology alongside geothermal greenhouses to provide the first financially viable way to confidently deliver and scale up the development of baseload geothermal electricity.
  • Another Canadian company, Volta Technique’s compressed air storage and management technology addresses the unpredictable and ever-increasing cost of energy for large commercial and industrial electricity users while enabling decarbonization of the electricity grid through higher integration of renewable energy.
  • Wootz, another Texas company, is developing a scalable manufacturing process to produce sustainable, cost-effective, high-performance carbon nanotube materials at commercial scale to replace or enhance traditional metallic conductors.

Twelve companies participated in Class 1 of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy, which was delivered virtually last summer. The 12 startups in that inaugural class have raised a combined $6.5 million in funding, identified and launched pilots, met investors, hired staff and moved their offices to Houston.

The program is supported by founding sponsor Wells Fargo and supporters: BP, Baker Botts, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Halliburton Labs, Equinor, Microsoft, NRG, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, Shell Ventures, Sunnova, TotalEnergies, Tudor Pickering Holt, Canadian Consulate, TC Energy, Phillips 66, and ENI Next.

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Houston engineers develop breakthrough device to advance spinal cord treatment

future of health

A team of Rice University engineers has developed an implantable probe over a hundred times smaller than the width of a hair that aims to help develop better treatments for spinal cord disease and injury.

Detailed in a recent study published in Cell Reports, the probe or sensor, known as spinalNET, is used to explore how neurons in the spinal cord process sensation and control movement, according to a statement from Rice. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Rice, the California-based Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the philanthropic Mary K. Chapman Foundation based in Oklahoma.

The soft and flexible sensor was used to record neuronal activity in freely moving mice with high resolution for multiple days. Historically, tracking this level of activity has been difficult for researchers because the spinal cord and its neurons move so much during normal activity, according to the team.

“We developed a tiny sensor, spinalNET, that records the electrical activity of spinal neurons as the subject performs normal activity without any restraint,” Yu Wu, a research scientist at Rice and lead author of the study said in a statement. “Being able to extract such knowledge is a first but important step to develop cures for millions of people suffering from spinal cord diseases.”

The team says that before now the spinal cord has been considered a "black box." But the device has already helped the team uncover new findings about the body's rhythmic motor patterns, which drive walking, breathing and chewing.

Lan Luan (from left), Yu Wu, and Chong Xie are working on the breakthrough device. Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

"Some (spinal neurons) are strongly correlated with leg movement, but surprisingly, a lot of neurons have no obvious correlation with movement,” Wu said in the statement. “This indicates that the spinal circuit controlling rhythmic movement is more complicated than we thought.”

The team said they hope to explore these findings further and aim to use the technology for additional medical purposes.

“In addition to scientific insight, we believe that as the technology evolves, it has great potential as a medical device for people with spinal cord neurological disorders and injury,” Lan Luan, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice and a corresponding author on the study, added in the statement.

Rice researchers have developed several implantable, minimally invasive devices to address health and mental health issues.

In the spring, the university announced that the United States Department of Defense had awarded a four-year, $7.8 million grant to the Texas Heart Institute and a Rice team led by co-investigator Yaxin Wang to continue to break ground on a novel left ventricular assist device (LVAD) that could be an alternative to current devices that prevent heart transplantation.

That same month, the university shared news that Professor Jacob Robinson had published findings on minimally invasive bioelectronics for treating psychiatric conditions. The 9-millimeter device can deliver precise and programmable stimulation to the brain to help treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Houston clean hydrogen startup to pilot tech with O&G co.

stay gold

Gold H2, a Houston-based producer of clean hydrogen, is teaming up with a major U.S.-based oil and gas company as the first step in launching a 12-month series of pilot projects.

The tentative agreement with the unnamed oil and gas company kicks off the availability of the startup’s Black 2 Gold microbial technology. The technology underpins the startup’s biotech process for converting crude oil into proprietary Gold Hydrogen.

The cleantech startup plans to sign up several oil and gas companies for the pilot program. Gold H2 says it’s been in discussions with companies in North America, Latin America, India, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The pilot program is aimed at demonstrating how Gold H2’s technology can transform old oil wells into hydrogen-generating assets. Gold H2, a spinout of Houston-based biotech company Cemvita, says the technology is capable of producing hydrogen that’s cheaper and cleaner than ever before.

“This business model will reshape the traditional oil and gas industry landscape by further accelerating the clean energy transition and creating new economic opportunities in areas that were previously dismissed as unviable,” Gold H2 says in a news release.

The start of the Black 2 Gold demonstrations follows the recent hiring of oil and gas industry veteran Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as CEO.

“With the proliferation of AI, growth of data centers, and a national boom in industrial manufacturing underway, affordable … carbon-free energy is more paramount than ever,” says Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner at venture capital firm 8090 Industries, an investor in Gold H2. “We’re investing in Gold H2, as we know they’ll play a pivotal role in unleashing a new dawn for energy abundance in partnership with the oil industry.”

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes an e-commerce startup founder, an industrial biologist, and a cellular scientist.

Omair Tariq, co-founder and CEO of Cart.com

Omair Tariq of Cart.com joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share his confidence in Houston as the right place to scale his unicorn. Photo via Cart.com

Houston-based Cart.com, which operates a multichannel commerce platform, has secured $105 million in debt refinancing from investment manager BlackRock.

The debt refinancing follows a recent $25 million series C extension round, bringing Cart.com’s series C total to $85 million. The scaleup’s valuation now stands at $1.2 billion, making it one of the few $1 billion-plus “unicorns” in the Houston area.

Cart.com was co-founded by CEO Omair Tariq in October 2020. Read more.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin, vice president of industrial biotechnology at Cemvita

Nádia Skorupa Parachin joined Cemvita as vice president of industrial biotechnology. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos. Read more.

Han Xiao, associate professor of chemistry at Rice University

The funds were awarded to Han Xiao, a chemist at Rice University.

A Rice University chemist has landed a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Health for his work that aims to reprogram the genetic code and explore the role certain cells play in causing diseases like cancer and neurological disorders.

The funds were awarded to Han Xiao, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Young Investigator, associate professor of chemistry, from the NIH's Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program, which supports medically focused laboratories. Xiao will use the five-year grant to advance his work on noncanonical amino acids.

“This innovative approach could revolutionize how we understand and control cellular functions,” Xiao said in the statement. Read more.