Alfred University News

Alfred University professor Amit Maha awarded FuzeHub Manufacturing Grant

Amit Maha, Alfred University professor of mechanical engineering, has been awarded a $50,000 FuzeHub Manufacturing Grant which will support a pilot project with Aestus, a New York State startup company working to develop a system for long-term energy storage.

ALFRED, NY – Amit Maha, Alfred University professor of mechanical engineering, has been awarded a $50,000 FuzeHub Manufacturing Grant which will support a pilot project with Aestus, a New York State startup company working to develop a system for long-term energy storage.

The grant, from the Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, is administered by FuzeHub, a non-profit agency that provides New York State manufacturers with guided access to its extensive network of industry experts, programs and assets to solve productivity, commercialization, research and development issues, and other challenges to growth.

Alfred University is one of 10 grantees sharing in approximately $450,000 in funding awarded by FuzeHub in the first round of its 2022 Manufacturing Grant Program.

Maha’s grant project partners Alfred University with Aestus, a manufacturer of energy storage systems based in Troy, NY. Aestus develops solutions for the increasing demand for energy storage—for applications for renewable energy integration, smart grid distribution, behind-the-meter control of peak demand costs and critical power back-up supplies.

Aestus is developing a high-efficiency, closed loop, thermal energy storage system that can use both renewable and non-renewable power sources. According to Thomas Wagner, chief technology officer at Aestus, his company’s project is “the design and validation of a long duration thermal energy storage system.”  During off peak hours, this storage system takes advantage of an electrically driven compressor to compress a gas and create heat, which is then stored in a ceramic heat sink. Later when power grid demand is needed, the gas is driven thru the heat sink and expanded via a turbine to drive a generator and produce electrical power to the grid.

This heat sink vessel is a key component in implementing a high efficiency, zero emission energy storage system that can be readily synchronized to any of the existing power line utility or micro grid. This system will offer the ability to dispatch on-demand power to an electric load by storing energy from renewable energy and balance the grid power demand.

Maha’s research team at Alfred University will assess heat sink vessel manufacturing methods and quantify the experimental investigations, by performing measurements of gas flow, pressure drop, temperature gradients to provide realistic heat storage capability of the Aestus designed ceramic core heat sink vessel. Currently, the team also includes one undergraduate senior mechanical engineering student who will perform some virtual modeling along with analytical, and numerical analysis to assist with the evaluation of this prototype heat sink.

“This project is unique in that all the materials are abundant earth and there are no emissions – these features drive a very low-cost basis,” Wagner said. He noted that the system has an exceptionally long life—greater than 30 years with daily charge and discharge—and requires no major component replacement over this lifetime.

Wagner said the partnership between Aestus and Alfred University “is based on the Alfred’s expertise in ceramic materials and thermodynamics. Such expertise is essential for Aestus to complete the design and validation of the thermal energy storage system being proposed.”

Aestus and Maha’s research team at Alfred University will collaborate with Ramboll, a global architecture, engineering and consulting company which creates sustainable solutions across several areas, including energy, buildings, transportation, environment and health, water, and architecture and landscape. Ramboll serves as Aestus’ industry partner, providing design and material specification consulting engineering services as well as custom manufacturing and assembly of the prototype thermal storage equipment at Ramboll’s manufacturing facility.

“Aestus’ thermal energy storage pilot system will require a robust data acquisition platform to measure and record the temperatures, pressures and flows to verify system performance,” explained Timothy Monaco, Engineering Program lead and project manager at Ramboll. “Aestus’ approach to storing excess electrical power as heat and converting that heat back to electrical energy represents the future of high power and long duration energy storage. This technology has the ability to replace fossil burning peaking power plants as well as stabilize the power output generated from intermittent renewable source such as wind and solar without the use of rare earth metals.”

The Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, consisting of more than $1 million annually, supports a set of activities designed to spur technology development and commercialization across New York State. As part of the Fund, FuzeHub offers Manufacturing Grants to New York State not-for-profit organizations, including higher education institutions, that propose innovative projects in partnership with a New York State small to medium-sized manufacturer. Project categories cover adoption of new technology to enhance a process and/or product, prototype development, design for manufacturing, proof-of-concept manufacturing, certain equipment purchases, manufacturing scale-up, and other projects to advance manufacturing capabilities.

The Innovation Fund is made possible through funding from Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR). New for 2022, FuzeHub received additional funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), supporting additional awards benefiting start-up companies.

About Jeff Lawrence
During his more than 20 years at the Center for Economic Growth, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) affiliate in the Capital Region where he served as executive vice president and MEP Center Director, Jeff Lawrence directed programs of direct assistance to manufacturers and technology companies to increase their competitiveness. He is remembered for being an invaluable and generous mentor to many in the area’s business community and a tireless advocate for manufacturing innovation throughout New York.

About FuzeHub
FuzeHub is a not-for-profit organization that connects New York’s small to medium-sized manufacturing companies to the resources, programs and expertise they need for technology commercialization, innovation, and business growth. Through our custom assessment, matching, and referral platform, we help companies navigate New York’s robust network of industry experts at Manufacturing Extension Partners centers, universities, economic development organizations, and other providers. FuzeHub is the statewide New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) center, supported by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology & Innovation.

About Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR)
Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) mission is to advance technology innovation and commercialization in New York State. NYSTAR’s programs are designed to enable new and existing businesses to become more competitive by innovative technologies and emphasize the importance of working with industry to leverage the state’s technology strengths. Through funded programs that support world-class technology research at colleges and universities, NYSTAR works to promote a robust network of industry-university partnerships throughout the state. It administers the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which provides direct technology assistance to small to-medium sized manufacturers. For more information on NYSTAR programs.

About U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)
The U.S. Economic Development Administration's investment policy is designed to establish a foundation for sustainable job growth and the building of durable regional economies throughout the United States. This foundation builds upon two key economic drivers - innovation and regional collaboration. Innovation is key to global competitiveness, new and better jobs, a resilient economy, and the attainment of national economic goals. Regional collaboration is essential for economic recovery because regions are the centers of competition in the new global economy and those that work together to leverage resources and use their strengths to overcome weaknesses will fare better than those that do not. EDA encourages its partners around the country to develop initiatives that advance new ideas and creative approaches to address rapidly evolving economic conditions. For more information on EDA.