Two Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurs named to Forbes 30 Under 30

(Originally published:

Two Entrepreneurs in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads”initiative are among 600 individuals selected from across the U.S. and Canada for the “Forbes 30 Under 30” cohort for 2019.

Anna Douglas, Co-Founder of SkyNano Technologies, and Megan O’Connor, Co-Founder on Nth Cycle, made the prestigious list. They were two of 30 individuals selected from the energy sector, one of 20 industries that Forbes identified for recognition. A total of 30 up and coming leaders was identified in each industry group.

In making the announcement yesterday, Forbes said that “Everything old is new again with the 2019 edition of the “Forbes 30 Under 30,” our annual list chronicling the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada. From creating milk without cows to trucks without drivers, these innovators are shaking up some of the world’s stodgiest industries. Spanning 20 different industries, our collection of 600 young leaders and entrepreneurs embodies how fresh vision, powerful technology and unwavering optimism can combine into earthshaking companies and movements. From finance to food, fashion to philanthropy, these risk-takers are forever changing how America does business.”

Forbes chose the 600 from thousands of nominees through what it says was a “three-layer process that relies on the knowledge and authority of our wide-reaching community, skilled reporters and expert judges.” The magazine’s Editors worked closely with a panel of judges that included well-recognized individuals like Tory Burch (Art & Style), Craig Newmark (Education), Padma Lakshmi (Food & Drink), Jim Hackett and Eren Ozmen (Manufacturing & Industry), David Axelrod (Law & Policy), Kirsten Green (Retail & Ecommerce), Thomas Tull (Sports), and Arlan Hamilton and Alexis Ohanian (Venture Capital).

Read more here.

Using father’s tools as a youngster sparked Ascend Manufacturing Justin Nussbaum’s interest

(NOTE: This is the third article in a five-part series spotlighting the work of the second cohort of start-ups comprising Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” initiative. They arrived in the area in May to begin their two-year effort to further advance their early stage energy-focused companies.)


By: Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

One characteristic of many young entrepreneurs we have met and interviewed since launching in early 2012 is the influence that their parents had on their pursuits. That’s certainly the case with Justin Nussbaum who is part of the second cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” initiative.

The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ascend Manufacturing told us that his father had a lot of tools that were available to the young son as he grew-up in Clearwater, FL. “I enjoyed using them and, over time, they slowly became mine,” Nussbaum says. “I liked to take things apart. If I wanted something, I just built it.”

That curiosity led him to the University of South Florida where, as a volunteer at the school’s Micro-Integration Lab, Nussbaum was exposed to 3D printing. His interest in 3D printing began with the repair of a Fab@Home, one of the first commercially available hobby-level 3D printers. Nussbaum then used the printer to conduct research for his master’s degree and made his first invention disclosure for that work.

And, as they say, “game on” as his career path, at least for now, has been established. Ascend Manufacturing is developing an additive manufacturing  system, called Large Area Projection Sintering (LAPS), that offers many advantages over new and traditional technologies. With LAPS, components can be economically created with increased production rates, reduced peak processing temperatures, and extended exposure times, enabling the processing of a broader range of materials while also providing superior mechanical properties.

Read more here.

Nth Cycle all about recycling to provide secondary source for rare earth materials

(NOTE: This is the second article in a five-part series spotlighting the work of the second cohort of start-ups comprising Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” initiative. They arrived in the area in May to begin their two-year effort to further advance their early stage energy-focuses companies.)

By: Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Megan O’Connor has adopted the mantra that all investors like to hear. She’s “all in” as it relates to Nth Cycle, the start-up company that provides a recycling technology to enable a secondary source of rare earth and specialty metals for a sustainable, secure energy future.

And, in spite of several detours along the way – one academic, another a “fork-in-the-road” career decision, and the third a difficult technology problem not solved until the proverbial 11th hour – O’Connor is very optimistic about the future several months into her fellowship as part of the second cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” initiative.

The Plattsburgh, NY native says her interest in entrepreneurship began while an undergraduate student at Union College near Albany, NY. “I wanted to build a technology to solve a big problem,” O’Connor explained.

She went from Union College to Duke University in Durham, NC where, halfway through her doctoral work, O’Connor’s advisor left for Yale University. That individual was Desiree Plata.

“Desiree’s passion for teaching and the environment was the right fit for me personally,” O’Connor says, so she followed the inspirational advisor to New Haven, CT where she finished her academic work at Yale, but graduated with her doctorate from Duke.

Read more here.

White Harvest Energy, 2G Energy continues work on Erlanger CHP project

Erlanger Health System is getting closer to making the complete switch to Combined Heat & Power in Chattanooga.

During the CHP Tour USA informational event held earlier this week, attendees were given insight into the innovative project and its progress as well as a site tour of Erlanger’s 8 MW CHP system.

Ben Edgar, CEO of White Harvest Energy, helped make it all possible. His team has been serving as the developer and operator of the project and will continue some of those duties after completion.

Working alongside 2G Energy, which supplied the CHP equipment, Edgar says the CHP system is expected to go live before the end of the year.

2G Energy Inc., a subsidiary of 2G Energy AG in Germany, is a CHP cogeneration specialist offering cogeneration systems in 50 to 2,000 kW power range. The company has over 5,000 systems installed worldwide, and its U.S. headquarters is located in St. Augustine, Florida.

Unlike individually engineered CHP plants, 2G Energy’s modular systems make installation easier and incorporate components geared towards each other which made the construction phase of the project complete within a matter of months. Good news for Erlanger.

But since Erlanger is an emergency care center that remains in operations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the optimal arrangement for their facility is four packaged, reciprocating-engine based CHP units rated at 2,000 kWe each, for a total of 8,000 kWe.

During the presentation, Edgar explained each Heat Recovery Steam Generator is connected to two CHP units to optimize steam generation. The fourth engine is placed in standby and used when other engines are out for planned or unplanned maintenance. In this manner, at least one of the engines in the CHP system can be in operation 24/7/365 along with the hospital.

The 8 MW CHP system generates:

  • 52,000 MWh of electricity annually
  • 12,000 lb/hr 115 degree steam
  • 14,000 MMBtu/hr hot water
  • 800 tons of chilled water

John Loetscher, Vice President of Facilities, Engineering, and Construction at Erlanger cited cost savings and reliability as the leading factors that drove the hospital to make the decision to be powered by a CHP system. Incentives provided by TVA also made the project very economically attractive.

As the icing on the cake, the CHP project is highly sustainable. Due to the increased efficiency of the system, there’s significant reductions in CO2 emissions. Once the system is turned on at Erlanger, it’ll be the equivalent of taking 4,000 cars off the road annually and has the carbon sequestering ability of 20,000 acres of forest.

Edgar also pointed out that while Erlanger’s system is powered by natural gas, the 2G Energy technology is capable of using renewable gas so it would be 100% renewable energy.

ORNL spotlights eight promising inventions at latest “Technology Innovation Showcase”

(Originally published:

Many of the technologies on display at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) annual “Technology Innovation Showcase” could have a significant impact on the automotive sector.

The event, organized by the Office of Technology Transfer, is designed to showcase the lab’s most promising technologies to those most likely to be interested in commercializing them. At least five and probably six of the eight inventions spotlighted at the event had direct application in the automotive sector. They ranged from electrolytes for advanced battery applications to a new family of cast aluminum alloys for automotive engine applications above 2500C and another alloy to meet the performance and cost targets for components like exhaust valves.

You get the picture. These are cutting-edge inventions that have great promise in addressing critical upcoming needs, but they also are not likely to secure immediate funding from traditional sources. Bridging that gap to make them more commercially ready is the goal of two programs – one that is ORNL specific (the “Technology Innovation Program” or {TIP}) and the other that comes out of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) called the “Technology Commercialization Fund” (TCF).

The results of the former show the long-term potential for both strategies.

Read more here.