ORNL welcomes seven new research fellows to Innovation Crossroads


Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Dept. of Energy

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., June 10, 2019–Oak Ridge National Laboratory welcomed seven technology innovators to join the third cohort of Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast’s only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) joined Innovation Crossroads as a program sponsor enabling a record number of innovators focused on energy-related and grid topics. Innovation Crossroads is also sponsored by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO).

Selected through a merit-based process, these scientists and engineers will have the opportunity to advance their technologies by working with world-class science experts and unique capabilities at ORNL, such as Summit, the nation’s most powerful supercomputer; the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, DOE’s largest advanced manufacturing research center; and the Spallation Neutron Source, offering atomic-level insight into advanced materials. The innovators also will be partnered with a powerful network of mentoring organizations in the Southeast to help them develop business strategies to advance their breakthroughs to market.

The third cohort of Innovation Crossroads fellows and their projects include (video):

Jesse Thornburg: Learning-Based Monitoring and Control for Optimizing Commercial Refrigeration Operations

Thornburg is developing a novel technology and operating framework for monitoring and control of commercial refrigeration systems installed at food retailers. This technology aims to simultaneously procure savings for retailers and provide grid response services for the power network. With better monitoring and control the technology will be able to leverage thermal storage capacity of retailer refrigeration systems as energy storage for the grid, providing a dynamic storage option for grid managers to flatten the load curve during peak demand hours. Thornburg holds a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and is co-founder of Grid Fruit.

Alex Lewis: Microbial Electrolysis for Production of Renewable Hydrogen from Organic Waste

Lewis is developing a microbial electrolysis system to extract energy from organic waste streams to produce renewable products such as hydrogen. This technology can enable companies and communities to reinvest their waste in the form of value-added products, with hydrogen serving as a means of energy storage as well as a zero-emission fuel to power the growing fuel cell market. Lewis holds a PhD in energy science and engineering from the University of Tennessee and is founder and chief executive officer of Electro-Active Technologies.

Leila Safavi-Tehrani: Advanced Production of High Purity Radioisotopes for Nuclear Medicine

Safavi-Tehrani is developing a platform technology that can be implemented in existing underutilized research reactor infrastructure nationwide for local and on-demand medical grade radioisotope production. This innovative radioisotope production mechanism can be easily adopted by research reactors of any size for medical grade radioisotope production. Safavi-Tehrani holds a PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of California, Irvine and is co-founder and chief executive officer of Purist.

Hicham Ghossein: Innovative Processing of Advanced Fiber Nonwoven Mats Through a Hydroentanglement System

Ghossein founded HG Technologies to continue the design and implementation of an innovative mixer system for the hydroentanglement process that offers several advantages over the current fiber dispersion techniques. The innovative mixing system allows production of defect free CF nonwoven textiles at an increased production rate compared to current processes. Ghossein holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee and is the founder of HG Technologies.

Trevor McQueen: Next-Generation Sample Preparation Device for Cryo-TEM Studies

McQueen is working to scale-up, validate, and manufacture an advanced, thin-film cryogenic sample preparation device designed to substantially improve sample preparation for the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) community. This will allow scientists and engineers to design, build, and institute quality control measures for a wide variety of advanced materials. McQueen holds a PhD in chemistry from Stanford University and is co-founder and chief executive officer of Neptune Fluid Flow Systems.

William Fitzhugh: Industrial Scale Production of Semiconducting Carbon-Nanotubes via Resonant-Dielectrophoresis

Fitzhugh is developing a novel dielectrophoresis (DEP) platform that can reduce the cost of semiconducting carbon nanotube production by orders of magnitude. He aims to produce semiconducting carbon nanotube inks that can be implemented with roll-to-roll printing to disrupt the thin-film-transistor industry. Fitzhugh is a PhD candidate in applied physics at Harvard University and is the founder of American Nanotechnologies.

Jesse Claypoole: Advanced Multi-Spectral Light Field Imaging Sensors

Claypoole is developing roll-to-roll manufactured, active multispectral light field (AMLF) micro-optics for applications including autonomous surgery, industrial manufacturing, robotic farming, and real time robot vision. In many automated industries in order to properly execute tasks, the combined use of this multispectral and directional information is critical. Currently, multispectral light field imaging systems usually consist of multi-sensor arrays that are too large, complicated, fragile, or expensive to be integrated on many of these applications. Claypoole is a PhD candidate in nanoscale science at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute and is the founder of Mantapoole Technologies.

“We are pleased to welcome the third group of entrepreneurs to Innovation Crossroads,” said ORNL Associate Laboratory Director for Energy and Environmental Sciences Moe Khaleel. “We look forward to supporting these young innovators as they work to advance their early science to benefit American manufacturing and clean energy.”

Innovation Crossroads, which welcomed its first cohort of innovators in May 2017, is one of DOE’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs designed to provide unique support to science-based startups in order to help advance game-changing technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. The two-year fellowship provides a cost-of-living stipend, comprehensive business development plan assistance, and up to $200,000 to use on collaborative R&D at ORNL, the nation’s largest science and energy laboratory.

Innovation Crossroads is one of three DOE Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs. These programs, funded by the Advanced Manufacturing Office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), address critical gaps in human capital by providing fellowships and two-year institutional homes where talented innovators become first-time entrepreneurs.

“Innovation Crossroads and our other Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs help promising innovators harness the capabilities of the national labs to turn their discoveries into viable products and American businesses,” said AMO Director Valri Lightner. “We want to encourage advanced technology innovation that in turn spurs economic growth and new jobs in the United States.”

“TVA pursues and supports research and development that best serves the people of the Tennessee Valley,” said Joe Hoagland, TVA Vice President, Enterprise Relations & Innovation. “By leveraging our partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and others, we can assist these talented scientists take advantage of this unique entrepreneurial fellowship program.”


Applications for cohort four of Innovation Crossroads will open in fall 2019. For more information, visit https://innovationcrossroads.ornl.gov/.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.

EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office supports early-stage research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promote American economic growth and energy security.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://energy.gov/science.

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