A short story on EEStor appeared today on MIT's Technology Review site. A few thoughts to walk away with:

1) The company has certified that its equipment and procedures can make the materials it needs to go into high-volume production of its ceramic ultracapacitor.

2) It took longer than expected to get to this stage because EEStor raised the bar on its production standards so it could develop production materials for mission-critical applications -- i.e. military stuff.

3) Voltage breakdown concerns have been addressed, primarily thanks to the alumina that coats and seals the composition-modified barium titanate.

4) Beyond materials and powder production, the rest -- i.e. component and EESU manufacturing -- is relatively simple, at least compared to disk drive manufacturing.

5) EEStor is also having serious talks with solar and wind companies regarding the use of EESUs in grid-scale storage applications.

Now, some other stuff that Weir said during an interview that wasn't in the Tech Review article:

6) Weir is keeping the name EEStor, despite rumours it might change. He said the brand recognition now is too great to let it go.

7) Weir's relationship with Lockheed Martin runs deeper than first thought. "Who's best at certifying what we've got? Lockheed," said Weir. "They've seen our factory. I've been working with them since 2001."

8) It seems that Lockheed may be an investor in EEStor. I come to this conclusion by this statement: "We told our investors we can do it better, and we did." Weir made this statement when explaining the reason why they took an extra year to meet its certification milestones for "advanced technologies," such as military applications. Not sure ZENN or Kleiners, the only known investors, have demanded such higher standards. Obviously, if Lockheed and its demands are the source of this delay, then it's reasonable to assume its partnership with EEStor is also in the form of an investment. "We fully plan to do a major expansion on this to meet anybody's requirement as we go forward," he said.

9) Weir said the production lines will be modular and highly robotic.

10) A corporate Web site will go up once the components are being manufactured.

11) He hinted that he was expecting competitors to challenge EEStor, and that his advantage will be the ability to move quickly and stay several steps ahead. "If we get challenged, we'll move to scale up," he said. "We have a lot of knowledge built up."

I truly got the sense that Weir is going to start talking more about this company, probably come this fall. But I also got the sense EEStor is more heavily involved with Lockheed than originally thought -- i.e. there's a big focus here on developing military applications using the technology. He called what he's working on as "Manhattan II." It makes sense, given that many great technological innovations have trickled down from work originally done at the military level -- GPS, the Internet, nuclear power

Re: Another chapter in EEStory
by Anonymous on Wed 06 Aug 2008 03:28 AM EDT  |  Permanent Link
Very high power density and very high energy density devices are ideal for portable directed energy weapons (e.g. high power free-electron lasers for theatre or intercontinental anti-missile, i.e. airborne or perhaps even space based; or short range ground/shipborne missile or mortar intercept). A truly viable ABM technology would certainly be a "Manhattan II" class achievement. Another obvious application would be subs capable of extended time ultra-silent running. This is in addition to more prosaic dual use field portable power applications, e.g. remote bases powered by local renewables and field portable power applications.

Military security considerations would also be entirely consistent and may partially account for EEStor's somewhat ambiguous/elliptical statements re:EESU technology and capabilities to date. However it still doesn't entirely explain why they haven't demo'd the basic technology on a "black box" basis publicly. It must also be fairly disconcerting from a Zenn investor perspective to hear that they may have delayed the tech for a ~1yr to meet military req'ts, i.e. potentially enabling competitors to fast-follow their lead and reduce the market for their products.

Also, I think this technology almost single handedly enables renewable energy sources to begin large scale displacement of fossil fuel electrical generation. Most of the major renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, tidal, wave) are intermittent, as well as being unable to respond to demand fluctuations, and therefore cannot replace baseload fossil/nuclear power generation, unless they are supplemented with cost-effective, large scale, high power/energy density storage. If EEStor tech proves out it is literally nothing less than the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.

Overall, a very encouraging sounding interview, I tend to think they've got the goods, what do you think? Thanks.

P.S.: While Mr Weir has addressed the voltage breakdown issue in both patent apps and verbally, the one ongoing omission in his conversations with various parties is whether/how they have overcome the issue raised by critics of BT dielectric field saturation at large scale with high voltages, which some have said is req'd to enable high permittivity = energy density of a complete EESU . It certainly may be inferred that they must have solved this issue for KP, LMT, Zenn and others to continue investing, let alone funding a mfg line. However it would appear to be a key 'secret sauce' aspect of their product.

P.P.S: It should also be noted that there are number of potentially dangerous asymmetric warfare applications that even a car-sized EESU could be used for against a developed country. I presume they'll have to design in limits on commercial EESU versions to prevent those uses.