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Electro-Active at CES 2019: Creating sustainable pathways for clean energy production
New energies 30/01/2019

Electro-Active at CES 2019: Creating sustainable pathways for clean energy production

Electro-Active Technologies is an American company specialized in the integration of biology, electrochemistry and engineering. They were part of the ENGIE & Partners booth at CES 2019, with NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research.We asked Abhijeet P. Borole, co-founder, a few questions about the company and their main takeaways from CES.

Electro-Active Technologies has a vision to change the sustainability within the food-energy nexus by enabling companies and communities to reinvest their waste into zero-emission fuel and value added products. Today, 40% of the food produced globally is wasted across the entire value chain. Extracting energy and recycling nutrients and carbon from lost food would enable a more sustainable circular food economy. 

We have developed a modular system to convert food waste into renewable fuel/hydrogen to enable distributed production. This system can be used onsite at large waste producing companies, or in a decentralized fashion at the community level. The product is a clean fuel, which can be used to power the growing fuel cell market including forklifts, transit buses, personal vehicles as well as stationary power.

The company is an early-stage firm in the process of building its operational infrastructure. Our system utilizes an advanced microbial and electrochemical process to efficiently degrade organic waste into electrons and protons to produce renewable fuel/hydrogen, while processing residual carbon and nutrients into a soil additive. We have reached fuel productivity and cost targets at laboratory-scale showing potential for commercial feasibility and currently developing a prototype to demonstrate the technology at larger scale.

What does it mean to you to have been at CES with ENGIE?

We made a pitch at the NREL Innovation showcase in September 2018, where our opening slide carried a message “Renewable hydrogen is the missing link for a totally carbon-free world”, which was picked from statements made by ENGIE CEO Isabelle Kocher. Never did we imagine that we would be talking with ENGIE a few months later! The message indeed speaks to what we believe from the heart. It was exciting to hear from NREL that ENGIE had invited Electro-Active to be a partner for presenting our technology at CES. 

Partnering with ENGIE to present at CES meant the world to us. It was a very exciting news. Being at the world stage with ENGIE and NREL to showcase our waste to hydrogen technology was an opportunity to interface with the leaders of the tech world. This enabled us to show the connection of food-energy-nexus to mobility and how it can impact the resilience and sustainability of clean, smart cities of tomorrow.

Secondly, self-driving cars and reliable, zero-emission mobility will be possible only via use of hydrogen fuel cells. We bring a solution that can be instrumental for success in large cities of the 21st century, which will harbor 70% of the world’s population by 2050. Climate change is already resulting in loss of billions of dollars in today’s economy due to power interruptions, fires, floods, etc. Renewable fuel-based, clean, mobile, fuel cell power derived from waste is a sustainable and renewable means to ascertain uninterrupted emergency power for continued business operations and those using latest IoT and connected devices in tomorrow’s economy, in addition to serving as a driver for green mobility. 

What did you showcase at CES? 

We showcased our prototype e-H2Gen model for production of renewable hydrogen from food waste. The distributed, scalable system we are developing illustrates our vision for sustainable production of hydrogen with a price point under $6/kg, lower than today’s fossil-derived hydrogen.

We are also developing systems for production of other renewable fuels like RNG. With fuels cell achieving 2x the efficiency of gasoline and diesel, this price point makes hydrogen fuel competitive with fossil fuels on a per mile basis with zero emissions. The technology is still in development and needs to be demonstrated at scale. For this, Electro-Active is building a working prototype at our incubator site in Knoxville, TN.

We were able to connect with stakeholders in the hydrogen value chain and partners to collaborate for taking this technology to market. Our goal is to demonstrate a holistic approach to waste management and distributed energy supply for cities in the future to create a healthy, vibrant economy. We also connected with companies and organizations who showcased their own products at CES on other needs for future Smart Cities. The collaborations can lead to smart and green energy products that can move the world towards a carbon-free world.

How do you think Electro-active will benefit from being at CES?

We had a few encounters at CES, which can potentially lead to high impact on the world consumer market in the coming years. There were a few organizations with real interest in the food and hydrogen value chain, who can help us take the technology to market. We are very optimistic about some of these encounters leading to activities, which can help us make progress towards our vision and accelerate the advancement of this technology.

Last but not least, how do you imagine clean energy in 2030?

We believe our unique planet needs a Circular BioEconomy, where waste is completely recycled into energy and other products. Nature has done this for billions of years. We only have 12 years left to do this and to have a realistic change to slow the impact of climate change. So, by 2030, human beings need to develop advanced systems that extract value from waste, especially food waste to reduce its impact.

The GHG impact of food waste has been hidden from us for a long time. Now, we know that this is one of the leading causes of climate change. In a way, we can kill two birds with one stone using our technology. We need clean energy, but at the same time, we also need to reduce food waste and pollution. These are just two sides of the same coin for us. Our being at CES was a catalyst propelling our solution of ‘Microbial Electrolysis’ to generate clean fuels from waste, to the forefront of upcoming high tech developments in smart devices, so they can be powered by zero-emission fuels for a sustainable lifestyle in the 21st century.

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