Green Fracking? 5 Technologies for Cleaner Shale Energy


Patrick J. Kiger for National Geographic

Published March 19, 2014

It may seem strange to hear the words “fracking” and “environmentally friendly” in the same sentence.

After all, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which high-pressure chemically treated water is used to crack rock formations and release trapped oil and gas, is a dirty term to many environmentalists. Critics decry the practice for consuming vast amounts of fresh water, creating toxic liquid waste, and adding to the atmosphere’s greenhouse gas burden, mostly because of increased risk of leaks of the potent heat-trapping gas, methane. (See related quiz, “What You Don’t Know About Natural Gas.”)

James Hill, chief executive of the Calgary, Alberta-based energy services firm GasFrac, is one of a handful of technology pioneers determined to change that. Hill’s company has introduced a new fracking method that uses no water at all. Instead, GasFrac uses a gel made from propane—a hydrocarbon that’s already naturally present underground—and a combination of what it says are relatively benign chemicals, such as magnesium oxide and ferric sulfate, a chemical used in water treatment plants. Over the past few years, GasFrac has used the process 2,500 times at 700 wells in Canada and the United States.

“We’re actually using hydrocarbons to produce hydrocarbons,” Hill said. “It’s a cycle that’s more sustainable.”

GasFrac is one of a growing number of companies, including giant GE and the oil services firm Halliburton, that are pioneering technological improvements to mitigate some of the environmental downsides to the process that has spurred a North American energy boom. (See Interactive, “Breaking Fuel From Rock.”) Besides GasFrac’s water-free method, other companies are working on ways to use recycled frack water or non-potable brine in fracking. Some are working on replacing harsh chemicals used in the process with more benign mixtures, or to cleanse water that’s been used in fracking. Other innovators are looking to replace diesel-powered drilling equipment with engines or motors powered by natural gas or solar energy, and to find ways to find and seal leaks that allow methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to escape.

Such efforts have even won cautious support from some environmental activists, who’ve decided that it may be more realistic to mitigate the consequences of fracking than to fight its use.

“Natural gas is a potential energy bounty for the country, and development is probably inevitable,” said Ben Ratner, a project manager for the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund.  (See related “Interactive: Breaking Fuel From Rock” and “The Great Shale Gas Rush.”) “That’s why we’re investing our energy into doing everything, from science to policy to working with companies, to maximize the potential climate advantage that gas has over coal, and minimize the risk to public health and the environment. We think natural gas can be an exit ramp from coal, but we have to do it right.” (See related, “U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Emissions Fall to an 18-Year Low,” and Natural Gas Nation: EIA Sees U.S. Future Shaped by Fracking.”)

Here are a few of the efforts to make fracking greener:

Water-Free Fracking: GasFrac’s fracking system, which uses a gelled fluid containing propane, has other advantages besides eliminating the need for water, according to Hill. Because the gel retains sand better than water, it’s possible to get the same results with one-eighth the liquid and to pump at a slower rate. Because GasFrac says the amount of hydrocarbon in the gel is comparable to what’s in the ground, the fluid can simply merge into the flow being extracted from the ground, eliminating the need to drain contaminated wastewater and haul it away in trucks for disposal, usually at deep-well injection sites. “We present a much smaller footprint,” he said. (See related, “Fracking Waste Wells Linked to Ohio Earthquakes.”)

Using Recycled Water or Brine: While fracking typically uses freshwater, industry researchers have worked to perfect friction-reducing additives that would allow operators to use recycled “gray” water or brine pumped from underground. Halliburton’s UniStim, which went on the market about a year ago, can create a highly viscous fluid from any quality of water, according to Stephen Ingram, the company’s technology manager for North America. In northeastern Canada, one producer has tapped into a deep subsurface saline water aquifer for a portion of its supplies for hydraulic fracturing.

Eliminating Diesel Fumes: The diesel-powered equipment used in drilling and pumping wells can be a worrisome source of harmful pollutants such as particulates, as well as carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. And diesel fuel is expensive. Last year, Apache, a Houston-based oil and gas operator, announced it would become the first company to power an entire fracking job with engines using natural gas. In addition to reducing emissions, the company cut its fuel costs by 40 percent. Halliburton has introduced another innovation, the SandCastle vertical storage silo for the sand used in fracking, which is powered by solar panels. The company also has developed natural-gas-powered pump trucks, which Ingram said can reduce diesel consumption on a site by 60 to 70 percent, resulting in “a sizable reduction in both emissions and cost.”

Drainage water pond, Texas

Drainage water pours into a settling pond near the booming oil fields of the Midland-Odessa region of West Texas.

Treating Wastewater: At hydraulic fracturing sites, the amount of wastewater typically far exceeds the amount of oil produced. The fluid that returns to the surface through the well bore is not only the chemically treated frack water, but water from the rock formation that can contains brines, metals, and radionuclides. (See related, “Forcing Gas Out of Rock With Water.”) That wastewater must be captured and stored on site, and then often is shipped long distances to deep well injection underground storage facilities. There have been few treatment options. But Halliburton has developed the CleanWave treatment system, which uses positively charged ions and bubbles to remove particles from the water at the fracking site. Last September, GE and its partner Memsys also tested a new on-site treatment system that allows the water to be reused without being diluted with freshwater, by employing a desalination process called membrane distillation. (See related Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Water and Energy.

Plugging Methane Leaks: A major fracking concern has been whether companies are allowing a significant amount of natural gas to escape, because methane—the main component of natural gas—is a potent greenhouse gas, 34 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2). A recent study concluded U.S. methane emissions are likely 50 percent higher than official government estimates. (See related, “Methane Emissions Far Worse Than U.S. Estimates.“) New U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that go into effect next year will require that all U.S. oil and gas sites have equipment designed to cut a wide range of pollutants, a step that the agency expects will cut methane. (See related, “Air Pollution From Fracked Wells Will Be Regulated Under New U.S. Rules.”)

Methane emissions from onshore oil and natural gas production could be reduced by 40 percent by 2018, at a cost that’s the equivalent of just one cent per thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced, concludes a just-released study, conducted by Fairfax, Va.-based consulting firm ICF International for the Environmental Defense Fund. EDF’s Ratner said that inspectors equipped with infrared cameras can spot leaks at fracking sites, which can then be plugged. “The cameras cost about $80,000 to $100,000 apiece,” he noted. “But that can pay for itself, because the more leaks you fix, the more gas you have to sell.” (See related blog post: “Simple Fixes Could Plug Methane Leaks From Energy Industry, Study Finds.”)

Another improvement that can reduce methane emissions: Replacing conventional pressure-monitoring pneumatic controllers, which are driven by gas pressure and vent gas when they operate. A U.S.-wide move to lower-bleed designs could reduce emissions by 35 billion cubic feet annually. And switching out conventional chemical injection pumps used in the fracking process, which are powered by gas pressure from the wells, and replacing them with solar-powered pumps, operators could eliminate an 5.9 billion cubic feet of methane emissions annually, the EDF report concludes.

The Cost-Benefit Equation

Some solutions do not require advanced technology. A study released Wednesday by the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force suggests that almost all of the methane leaks from the oil and gas infrastructure could be reduced at relatively little expense, often by simply tightening bolts or replacing worn seals.

A number of greener fracking technologies already are being implemented, according to industry officials. But one obstacle is economic. The newer, more environmentally friendly technologies generally cost more than the legacy equipment they would replace. Extracting natural gas with water-free fracking, for example, could cost 25 percent more than conventional fracking, according to David Burnett, a professor of petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University who heads that school’s Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems Program. He said that switching fracking equipment from diesel to natural gas is the innovation that’s catching on most rapidly, because it provides a clear economic benefit as well as helping to lower carbon emissions. With the rising cost of renting fracking rigs, companies are eager to find improvements that will reduce their costs, he said.

Green fracking is “the same as with any industry—if you come out with a game-changing technology, you can get in the market first and ride that,” Burnett said.  (See related, “Can Natural Gas Bring Back U.S. Factory Jobs?“)

But Halliburton’s Ingram said that innovations such as chemical treatments to make brine usable will drop in price as the technology is perfected. “Eventually it will become the lower-cost chemistry,” he said.

A more difficult hurdle might be overcoming what Ingram calls “sociopolitical constraints” around the country. One major issue that reduces incentives to invest in green fracking innovations: the generally low price of freshwater. (See related, “Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035.”)

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.


Renewable Energy Sources Vs. Cheap NG from Fracking .. And the Winner Is?

Has the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy failed in its mission to create alternative energy breakthroughs? By David Biello

ARTIFICIAL LEAF: Sun Catalytix hoped to turn its sunlight-and-split-water system into a cheap source of power for homes.
A single bottle of dirty water transformed into the power source for a home—such was the promise of a technology package that became known as the “artificial leaf.” And such was the vision introduced by its inventor, Daniel Nocera, at the inaugural summit of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy in 2010.The artificial leaf pledged to store 30 kilowatt-hours of electricity after a mere four hours of splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, or enough to power an average American “McMansion” for a day. It was exactly the kind of “high-risk, high-reward” technology touted by President Obama when he launched the agency in 2009 (an idea carried over from the George W. Bush–era).

Such technologies could help with the country’s energy, environmental and economic security by creating new industries and jobs as well as by reducing the pollution associated with energy production and use today. More succinctly, “ARPA–E turns things that are plausible into things that are possible,” proclaimed Acting Director Cheryl Martin at the 2014 summit.

Out of 37 projects that received initial ARPA–E funding, Sun Catalytix, a company founded by Nocera, was the poster child—or rather video favorite—featured in a U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) clip talking up the potential of transformational change. “Almost all the solar energy is stored in water-splitting,” intoned Nocera, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemist, at the inaugural ARPA–E summit. “Shift happens.”

The artificial leaf proved to be possible but implausible, however. It won’t be splitting water using sunlight on a mass scale anytime soon, its hydrogen dreams blown away by a gale of cheap natural gas that can also be easily converted to the lightest element.

So Sun Catalytix has set the artificial leaf aside and shifted focus to flow batteries, rechargeable fuel cells that use liquid chemistry to store electricity. A better flow battery might not shift the fundamental fuel of the American dream but it could help utilities cope with the vagaries of wind and solar power—and is more likely to become a salable product in the near future.

Five years in, ARPA–E’s priorities have shifted, too, for the same reason. The cheap natural gas freed from shale by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) has helped kill off bleeding-edge programs like Electrofuels, a bid to use microbes to turn cheap electricity into liquid fuels, and ushered in programs like REMOTE, a bid to use microbes to turn cheap natural gas into liquid fuels. Even at the first summit in 2010, so full of alternative energy promise, this gassy revolution was becoming apparent.

Consulting firm Black & Veatch predicted that burning natural gas would provide nearly half of all U.S. electricity by 2034, a forecast fulfilled a few decades early in 2012. “We’ve got a lot of cheap gas,” said ARPA–E Program Director Dane Boysen at the 2014 summit. “The question is: What should we do with it?”

Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy, or MOVE program cars that run on natural gas or better batteries. Is enabling the energy predominance of another fossil fuel the kind of transformation E is failing?

The measure of success ARPA–E points to follow-on funding from other entities (whether corporate, government or venture capital) as an early measure of its success. So far, the agency has invested more than $900 million in 362 different research projects. Of those projects, 22 have garnered an additional $625 million from capitalists of one type or another; it is a group that includes Sun Catalytix.

ARPA–E funding has also allowed 24 projects to form spin-off companies whereas 16 projects have found a new funding source from other government agencies, including the DoE, which runs ARPA–E, and the Department of Defense.

The biggest successes include Makani Power, which makes souped up kites for wind power, and was acquired by Google after ARPA–E invested $6 million developing the technology. There’s also Ambri, which makes liquid-metal batteries for cheap energy storage on a massive scale and is now developing units capable of storing 20 kilowatt-hours for testing later this year.

And there’s 1366 Technologies, which became the first (and only, at that time in 2009) ARPA–E grantee in photovoltaics with a new manufacturing method that wastes less silicon. The company will begin construction this year on its first factory.

The outright failures have been mostly less prominent: algae breeding for biofuels and various carbon dioxide capture technologies, along with efforts to knit together hydrocarbons from sunshine, carbon dioxide and water. But some have proved more conspicuous. ARPA–E feted a would-be breakthrough battery maker named Envia in 2012. But by 2014, while at least one of the entrepreneurs backing the company still mingled in the summit’s halls at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland, Envia was mired in lawsuits and failed to deliver the energy-dense batteries it promised to General Motors.

“I don’t call them failures, I call them opportunities to learn,” argued ARPA–E’s first director, Arun Majumdar, in a 2012 interview with Scientific American about failed projects in general. “If 100 percent of these projects worked out, we’re not doing our job.”

ARPA–E is definitely doing its job then: Biofuels haven’t quite delivered on their promise, even engineering tobacco plants for oil, while electrofuels were a “crazy-ass idea,” to use a term employed by William Caesar, president of the recycling business at Waste Management, at the 2014 summit to describe some of the concepts his company has evaluated for investment. And ARPA–E’s budget has always been too small to tackle innovation in certain areas. “My real hope was to have enough of a budget to try out something different than what we are doing in the nuclear field today,” such as a prototype for a new kind of reactor, Majumdar said in a 2013 interview with Scientific American.   “If you’re solving for climate change and you’re a serious person, your strategy starts with nuclear,” said David Crane, CEO of the electric utility NRG, at this year’s summit.

But ARPA–E’s budget has always been too small to encompass, for example, the hundreds of millions of dollars Crane lost during his tenure in a failed bid to build new standard nuclear reactors in Texas.   An analysis of the biggest programs by year and funding shows that electrofuels drew the biggest investment (at more than $41 million) in fiscal year 2010 followed by better hardware and software for the U.S. grid to help integrate renewables in 2011.

But in fiscal year 2012 the biggest tranche of funding to a single program went to Boysen’s MOVE projects (roughly $30 million) and, in fiscal year 2013, just behind the $36 million invested in better batteries for electric cars, was the REMOTE program of projects garnering $34 million. “It could have a small environmental footprint,” argues Ramon Gonzalez, program director for Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE). “We can develop something that is a bridge to renewable energy or even is renewable itself in the future.”

Natural gas hardly seems to need ARPA–E’s help to become ubiquitous. And although natural gas can help with climate change in the short term—displacing coal that emits even more pollution when burned to generate electricity—in the long run it, too, is a fossil fuel and a greenhouse gas itself. Burning methane for electricity will also one day require capturing and storing the resulting carbon dioxide in order to combat climate change.

ARPA–E has not succeeded in delivering a technological breakthrough that would allow that to happen cheaply or efficiently, despite investing more than $30 million in its Innovative Materials and Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT) back in 2010. “ARPA–E needs to revisit carbon capture and storage,” said Michael Matuszewski of the National Energy Technology Laboratory at this year’s summit.  

Long game Significant changes in energy sources—say from wood to coal or the current shift from coal to gas—take at least 50 years, judging by the record to date. “Looking at the climate risk mitigation agenda, we don’t have 50 to 60 years,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz argued at the 2014 summit. “We have to cut [that time] in half,” and that will require breakthrough technologies that are cheaper, cleaner and faster to scale.

It is also exactly in times of overreliance on one energy source that funding into alternatives is not only necessary, but required. ARPA–E should continue to focus on transformational energy technologies that can be clean and cheap, even if political pressures incline the still young and potentially vulnerable agency to look for a better gas tank. After all, if ARPA–E and others succeed in finding ways to use ever-more natural gas, new shale supplies touted to last for a century at present consumption rates could be exhausted much sooner.

“Before this so-called ‘shale gale‘ came upon us, groupthink had most of us focusing on energy scarcity,” warned Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) at the 2013 summit. “The consensus now is one of abundant energy. Don’t fall into the trap of groupthink again.”   Failure is a necessary part of research at the boundaries of plausibility.  As ARPA–E’s Martin said at this year’s summit: “It’s part of the process.” Many of the ideas the agency first funded were ideas that had sat unused on a shelf since the oil crisis of the 1970s.

And the ideas that go back on the shelf now, like the artificial leaf, provide the basic concepts—designer, metal-based molecules—for new applications, like flow batteries.   The artificial leaf, for one, could benefit from ARPA–E or other research to bring down the cost of the photovoltaic cells that provide the electricity to allow the leaf’s designer molecules to do their water-splitting work. Already, cheaper photovoltaics may be ushering in an energy transition of their own, cropping up on roofs across the country from California to New Jersey.

When such renewable sources of energy become a significant source of electricity, more storage will be needed for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow—and that storage needs to be cheap and abundant. In Germany, where the wind and sun now provide roughly one quarter of all that nation’s electricity, the long-term plan is to convert any excess to gas that can then be burned in times of deficit—so-called power to gas, which is a fledgling technology at best. And why couldn’t clean hydrogen be that gas, as Nocera has suggested?

So the artificial leaf bides its time, while research continues at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis established with DoE money in California. Failure is an investment in future success. “The challenge is not that the technology doesn’t work, but the economics don’t work,” observed Waste Management’s Caesar at the 2014 ARPA–E Summit. “I don’t like to talk about dead ends. There are things that their time just hasn’t come yet.”

Read “The Clean Energy Wars” here:

9 Incredible Uses for Graphene

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Graphene is amazing. Or at least, it could be. Made from a layer of carbon one-atom thick, it’s the strongest material in the world, it’s completely flexible, and it’s more conductive than copper. Discovered just under a decade ago, the supermaterial potentially has some unbelievable applications for us in the not so distant future. All of these are just hypothetical at this point, but could be real before we know it.

And they’re all flippin incredible!

Water, water everywhere and EVERY drop drinkable. MIT minds have a plan for a graphene filter covered in tiny holes just big enough to let water through and small enough to keep salt out, making salt water safe for consumption.

Potable Water

Mega-fast uploads. We’re talking a whole terabit in just one second.

Mega Uploads

Plug your phone in for five seconds and it would be all charged up. The downside here is that you won’t be able to use a dead phone as an excuse anymore.


What if we actually had a clear solution for cleaning up the tainted water near Fukushima? Scientists at Rice say graphene could potentially clump together radioactive waste, making disposal is a breeze.


Graphene could pave the way for bionic devices in living tissues that could be connected directly to your neurons. So people with spinal injuries, for example, could re-learn how to use their limbs.

Human Body

It could improve your tennis game, thanks to special racquets from HEAD that aim to put the weight where it’s more useful: in the head and the grip.

Tennis Racket

Touchscreens that use graphene as their conductor could be slapped onto plastic rather than glass. That would mean super thin, unbreakable touchscreens and never worrying about shattering your phone ever again.

Phone Glass

High-power graphene supercapacitors would make batteries obselete.


Just a single sheet of graphene could produce headphones that have a frequency response comparable to a pair of Sennheisers, as some scientists at UC Berkeley recently showed us.

Berkley Frequency

Nanoparticles Enable Earlier Cancer Diagnosis

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8 From Science Daily, Dec. 17, 2012 — Finding ways to diagnose cancer earlier could greatly improve the chances of survival for many patients. One way to do this is to look for specific proteins secreted by cancer cells, which circulate in the bloodstream. However, the quantity of these biomarkers is so low that detecting them has proven difficult.

 A new technology developed at MIT may help to make biomarker detection much easier. The researchers, led by Sangeeta Bhatia, have developed nanoparticles that can home to a tumor and interact with cancer proteins to produce thousands of biomarkers, which can then be easily detected in the patient’s urine.

This biomarker amplification system could also be used to monitor disease progression and track how tumors respond to treatment, says Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

“There’s a desperate search for biomarkers, for early detection or disease prognosis, or looking at how the body responds to therapy,” says Bhatia, who is also a member of MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. She adds that the search has been complicated because genomic studies have revealed that many cancers, such as breast cancer, are actually groups of several diseases with different genetic signatures.

The MIT team, working with researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, described the new technology in a paper appearing in Nature Biotechnology on Dec. 16. Lead author of the paper is Gabriel Kwong, a postdoc in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and the Koch Institute.

Amplifying cancer signals

Cancer cells produce many proteins not found in healthy cells. However, these proteins are often so diluted in the bloodstream that they are nearly impossible to identify. A recent study from Stanford University researchers found that even using the best existing biomarkers for ovarian cancer, and the best technology to detect them, an ovarian tumor would not be found until eight to 10 years after it formed.

“The cell is making biomarkers, but it has limited production capacity,” Bhatia says. “That’s when we had this ‘aha’ moment: What if you could deliver something that could amplify that signal?”

Serendipitously, Bhatia’s lab was already working on nanoparticles that could be put to use detecting cancer biomarkers. Originally intended as imaging agents for tumors, the particles interact with enzymes known as proteases, which cleave proteins into smaller fragments.

Cancer cells often produce large quantities of proteases known as MMPs. These proteases help cancer cells escape their original locations and spread uncontrollably by cutting through proteins of the extracellular matrix, which normally holds cells in place.

The researchers coated their nanoparticles with peptides (short protein fragments) targeted by several of the MMP proteases. The treated nanoparticles accumulate at tumor sites, making their way through the leaky blood vessels that typically surround tumors. There, the proteases cleave hundreds of peptides from the nanoparticles, releasing them into the bloodstream.

The peptides rapidly accumulate in the kidneys and are excreted in the urine, where they can be detected using mass spectrometry.

This new system is an exciting approach to overcoming the problem of biomarker scarcity in the body, says Sanjiv Gambhir, chairman of the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Instead of being dependent on the body to naturally shed biomarkers, you’re sampling the site of interest and causing biomarkers that you engineered to be released,” says Gambhir, who was not part of the research team.

Distinctive signatures

To make the biomarker readings as precise as possible, the researchers designed their particles to express 10 different peptides, each of which is cleaved by a different one of the dozens of MMP proteases. Each of these peptides is a different size, making it possible to distinguish them with mass spectrometry. This should allow researchers to identify distinct signatures associated with different types of tumors.

In this study, the researchers tested their nanoparticles’ ability to detect the early stages of colorectal cancer in mice, and to monitor the progression of liver fibrosis.

Liver fibrosis is an accumulation of scarring in response to liver injury or chronic liver disease. Patients with this condition have to be regularly monitored by biopsy, which is expensive and invasive, to make sure they are getting the right treatment. In mice, the researchers found that the nanoparticles could offer much more rapid feedback than biopsies.

They also found that the nanoparticles could accurately reveal the early formation of colorectal tumors. In ongoing studies, the team is studying the particles’ ability to measure tumor response to chemotherapy and to detect metastasis.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund.

QMC receives U.S. patent for synthesis of Group II-VI inorganic tetrapod quantum dots


*** Note to Readers: In our efforts to provide timely updates in the world of “Nano”, we post the following announcement. We have previously posted about this company and find the premise of the technology to be very promising IOHO. We appreciate your thoughts, comments and responses as to how you think this technology will impact the industry, specifically in Nano-Bio, Nano-Pharma and Nano-Medicine.  Cheers!  BWH

Published on November 21, 2012 at 12:11 AM

quantum material corp logoQuantum Materials Corporation, Inc. (OTCQB: QTMM) proudly announces the USPTO patent grant of a fundamental disruptive technology for synthesis of Group II-VI inorganic tetrapod quantum dots. The patent, “Synthesis of Uniform Nanoparticle Shapes with High Selectivity” and invented by Professor Michael S. Wong’s group at William Marsh Rice University, Houston, TX, for the first time gives precise control of both QD shape and dimension during synthesis and is adaptable to quantum dots production of industrial scale quantities. The new synthesis is a greener method using surfactants as would be found in laundry detergent instead of highly toxic chemicals used during industry standard small batch synthesis.

Quantum Materials Corporation, Inc.(QMC) has acquired the exclusive worldwide license for this patent and its wholly owned renewable energy subsidiary, Solterra Renewable Technologies, has the same rights specific to Quantum Dot Solar Applications.  QMC last week announced a high quantum yield of 80% for a new class of tetrapod QD synthesized with this patented process.

According to a new market research report, “Quantum Dots (QD) Market – Global Forecast & Analysis (2012 – 2022)” published by MarketsandMarkets (, the total market for Quantum dots is expected to reach $7.48 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 55.2% from 2012 to 2022.

The Rice University QD synthesis remarkably produces same-sized tetrapods, in which more than 92+ percent are full tetrapods, with a similar high degree of process control over QD shape, size, uniformity, and selectivity. The synthesis is applicable to a wide range of mono and hybrid Group II-VI tetrapod QD with/without shell and can optimize specific characteristics by modifying process parameters.

Across the broader QD industry however, other companies have been striving to increase production, but none have predicted scaling quantum dot production remotely close to multiple kilograms per day.

Quantum Materials Corporation’s development of breakthrough software-controlled continuous flow chemistry process allows scaling of tetrapod quantum dot production to 100Kg/Day. Increasing production will transform tetrapod quantum dots from a novelty to a commodity, available across industries and applications where prior limited availability and high prices restricted product development. For example, 100Kg daily QD production can support a QD Solar Cell Plant producing one Gigawatt/year of R2R flexible QD solar cells at an industry competitive .75 cents/Watt at the start.

Tetrapod QD offer inherent advantages over spherical QD including higher brightness, truer and more colors, the use of less active material (QDs) for any application, higher photostability and therefore longer lifetime; which together more than justify their product development. OLEDs, for example, share design architecture similarities and would not require entirely new research to adapt to TQD-LEDs.  Spherical Quantum dots, at the low price of $2000/gm. are 30 times more expensive than gold today.

It simply has not been economically feasible to commercialize QD applications due to their high cost, which stems from the difficulty of small batch manufacture, the inability to produce uniform, same size QD from batch to batch, and to promise a reliable, timely supply. Over the last half dozen years university and corporate quantum dot research has increased dramatically and there are ready QD applications that may now be “business planned” for joint ventures or possible licensing with Quantum Materials Corporation and Solterra Renewable Technologies.

Stephen B. Squires, CEO and President of Quantum Materials Corporation, Inc. and Solterra Renewable Technologies, Inc., said, “With the granting of the US Patent, tetrapod quantum dots are well positioned to revolutionize several industries in offering dramatic performance at cost effective levels. While the technology has been under review, we have continued to execute our vision to establish global manufacturing centers and strategic partnerships for creating dramatic value in our companies.”  Squires continued, “We are excited to continue our business plan with the IP protection offered by the granted allowances. Adoption of quantum dots will result in new classes of products with advanced features, improved performance, energy efficiency, and lower cost.”

Art Lamstein, Director of Marketing for QMC and SRT added, “The timeline is moved forward to present day and market forecasts will need be rewritten for quantum dot based renewable energy, photovoltaics, biotech diagnostic assays, drug delivery platforms, theranostic cancer and other biomedicine treatments, QD-LED and opto-electronic devices, photonics, low power SSL lighting, batteries, fuel cells, thermo-QD  applications, quantum computing, memory, and conductive inks (to name a few).”QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8

Solar power captured in fuel

19 October 2012


Solar power captured in fuel







Note To Readers: Our Comments: An abundant FREE source of energy … that is limitless … and GREEN to boot! Quoting from the news release:

” … “Our future scientific goal is to establish a solar water splitting system operated only by abundant sunlight and sea water,” Associate Professor Tachibana remarked. “Fortunately these resources are freely available on this blue planet.

“The key to improving efficiency will be in the development of new “nano-materials” (microscopically small components), along with efficient control of charge transfer reaction processes, and improvement to the structure of devices.”

Cheers! – BWH

It has long been a dream of scientists to use solar energy to produce chemicals which could be stored and later used to create electricity or fuels.

A recent scientific breakthrough is providing hope that this may soon be possible.

The development would offer many benefits, including the ability to store chemicals until needed – current solar power technology has difficulties in this area.

In the laboratory, a new technology mimics photosynthesis, the process used by plants, by combining sunlight and water in such a way that promises storable fuels.

The “solar to chemical energy conversion” process is outlined in an article just published in a prominent journal, Nature Photonics, authored by RMIT University researcher Associate Professor Yasuhiro Tachibana, from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Inspired by photosynthesis, in which oxygen and carbohydrates are produced from water and carbon dioxide, the newly developed technology emulates this process using man-made materials.

According to Associate Professor Tachibana, it remains a challenge to construct a device capable of producing molecular fuels like hydrogen at a scale and cost able to compete with fossil fuels.

The key to improving efficiency will be in the development of new “nano-materials” (microscopically small components), along with efficient control of charge transfer reaction processes, and improvement to the structure of devices.

Recent developments in the field of nanotechnology have been leading to promising improvements in cost and effectiveness of the conversion process, Associate Professor Tachibana said.

“Our future scientific goal is to establish a solar water splitting system operated only by abundant sunlight and sea water,” Associate Professor Tachibana remarked.

“Fortunately these resources are freely available on this blue planet.”

Professor Xinghuo Yu, Director of RMIT’s Platform Technologies Research Institute, said the latest research was significant, but challenges remained in how to translate laboratory-scale academic research into a practical, economically viable technology.

In addition to using solar energy, other commercially available renewable energy sources like wind and tidal power could also conceivably be applied, Professor Yu said.

Associate Professor Tachibana’s review paper was published in the August 2012 edition of Nature Photonics, world-renowned as a pre-eminent platform for publication of international research in photonics.

Editor’s Note: Original news release can be found here.


15 things to know before approaching a venture capitalist

In fact, according to Mike Cabigon, they’re nice people that want everyone in the deal to make money. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to fall over themselves to finance your business. Here are 10 things to remember before approaching a VC, and five enduring myths about these mysterious creatures.


Don’t approach a VC too early

“For the most part VCs will not back early stage technologies or ideas because the risk is too high,” says Aki Georgacacos, a founding partner of Calgary’s Avrio Capital. “Early stage companies ought to focus on friends, family and angels.” Once you have demonstrated that the product is real and that people are willing to pay for it, then you go to the VC. “After you have a business that has some viability, that has demonstrated it can be relevant, there’s enough VC money around that a good, fundamentally sound strategy with reasonable valuation expectations, a capable management team and a good business plan will get funded,” he says.


Sweat equity counts for something

There will be a component of goodwill in a company’s valuation that accounts for a good idea. “If the idea might cure cancer, that goodwill will be up to half a million,” says Randy Thompson, the owner and CEO of Venture Alberta in Calgary. “If it’s just another flavour of bubble gum you’re probably closer to zero, but if I’m going to give you goodwill for your idea, adding sweat equity on top of that is a little much.”


How have you protected your idea?

A VC will want to see that you have protected your idea in some waY, but that doesn’t necessarily mean patents or trademarks (although it might). Other forms of protection are a contract with a big client or lots of users. “If you had a sponge that cleaned up tailings ponds and Syncrude had said to you, ‘If you can do this, we’ll lock you up on a five-year contract.’ Well who really cares if someone steals your idea at that point,” Thompson says. “You have a locked-in contract with a big multinational.”


Quantify the problem that your product solves

“People will say, ‘Sharing photos in social environments is painful, and I’m ready to solve it,’” says Mike Cabigon, “The first thing I ask is, ‘For who? Tell me what makes you believe that?’ Someone once showed me an online forum complaining about a feature in a photo sharing thing, and there were over 20 million views. That was a good quantification of a problem.”


Land a solid management team

“We’re looking to see that there is a capable set of management that is associated with the opportunity,” says Georgacacos. “A good management team will typically overcome mediocre technology, but the inverse of that is not necessarily true.” Do you have somebody who works in the space your idea is in? If, for instance, your invention is a medical device, do you have an advisor from Harvard medical school on your side?


Know the VC you’re pitching

Know how they make money and who their bosses are. Do they specialize in IT? Healthcare? Restaurant services? Who are the limited partners: Do they include the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan? The WCB? AIMCo? And what are those limited partners trying to make money at? When you understand that, you understand VC math.
Georgacacos’s fund, for instance, is only interested in later-stage companies. “We typically want to see a marketplace that is fairly well defined as opposed to a company that is seeking to create new markets,” he says. “Typically we are looking at taking execution risk as opposed to development risk, so the client may or may not have revenue, but it definitely has revenue visibility in the near term, that is revenue within the next six months.”


Tell a story

“I’m not as interested in people giving me pitches as I am in hearing their story,” says Cabigon, who estimates that he hears about 100 pitches each year. “That’s not me trying to be a nice guy. It’s just that the story tends to tell what they do much better than the standard PowerPoint and going through the briefing as if it were a formula. Everyone can Google how to do this. What’s more difficult and what can set you apart is if you can tell the story of why you are doing what you’re doing. Usually, if you tell the story correctly, it captures everything you want to hear in a venture pitch without actually going through the steps and the demos.”


It’s all about the idea or product

People often assume that their product is the most interesting thing about them, when in fact it’s the least. “You can have a great idea but if there’s not a market prepared to accept that idea, if the concept is before its time, if you don’t have a management team that can properly execute, then it’s an exercise in futility,” says Georgacacos. “It’s never the idea,” Thompson says. “It’s all in the execution.”


VCs are risk takers

VCs are not looking for a win-lose proposition. “I want to make a bet where I have an idea that it’s going to work, that it’s viable,” says Georgacacos. “If I can bring some resources and management and expertise to the board and allow this company to have access to my network around the world, then I can add value to this business and make it grow. Maybe my downside scenario is getting my money back and my upside scenario is making 50 or 60 per cent, but I know in all likelihood that the business will not be a negative 100.”


VCs are looking for reasons to say ‘no’

“The reality is none of us make money unless we place money,” Cabigon says, “so every time I see one of these pitches I’m sure hoping it’s the next one we want to do.”


You must have skin in the game

Thompson says entrepreneurs often think that coming up with the idea is enough of a contribution from them, and they expect investors to take the risk. The founder might have a bank loan or a shareholder loan, but the strategy is to pay those back so that they’re clear of the risk. “It’s a deal breaker,” Thompson says of not having your own money on the line. “It’s pretty much a guarantee that you won’t get funded.”


There is a formula for valuations

There are a couple of rough formulas that VCs use to arrive at a valuation for a company, although they’re hardly mathematical. “Both have come to pretty much the same place: An early stage company with no revenues should never have a valuation higher than $2.5 million,” Thompson says, “and the $2.5 million number is set aside for the few, the proud. You have to have everything in the formula to get a 2.5. Realistically you’re looking from $250,000 up to $2 million. Anything higher than that is probably an inappropriate valuation.”


Be realistic in your valuation

Let’s say you come to a VC with an idea that is great in every respect: You have a sponge that cleans up tailings ponds, Syncrude has given you a three-year contract, Eric Newell is on your board of directors and you have 15 patents protecting the sponge. Who wouldn’t want to invest in that deal? “But so often on [CBC TV’s] Dragons’ Den the entrepreneur walks in and asks for a million dollars for one per cent of the company,” Thompson says, “and they all look at him and go, ‘You haven’t sold a thing, you’re three years away from giving Syncrude their first sponge, and your valuation is $100 million?’ The big thing in deal structuring is to make sure there’s enough meat on the steak for everyone to make some money.”


A customer order can mean everything

“I’ve made some investments in medical devices,” Thompson says. “It doesn’t mean I understand them at all, but I sure understand when Procter & Gamble says, ‘We need a million of these things.’”


You need venture capital to begin with

“We in Alberta tend to build startups that generate revenue fairly early,” Cabigon says. “We have customers in the types of industries that we do well: energy, environmental, agriculture. If you can build a startup around those, you can often get a customer to fund development. So you have to ask yourself if you need VC money at all, or can you get to that second step without taking a nickel of venture capital.”

CHART OF THE DAY: Goldman’s Quarter-By-Quarter Breakdown Of How The Fiscal Cliff Will Crush The Economy

The analysts at Goldman Sachs have been among the most pessimistic people to talk about the fiscal cliff — the tax cuts and spending programs that will expire automatically at the end of the year and slash GDP by around 4 percentage points.

Goldman’s David Kostin has warned that fiscal “brinksmanship” will cause the S&P 500 to tumble to 1,250 by the end of the year.

In various surveys and anecdotes, U.S. businesses have indicated that uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff is preventing them from pursuing any major investments for growth.

Bottom line: the fiscal cliff is increasingly becoming a worry for the U.S. economy as the end of the year approaches.

Here’s a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of how the various components of the fiscal cliff could smash the U.S. economy from Goldman Sachs via FT Alphaville’s Cardiff Garcia:


Read more:

Quantum Materials Corp

QUANTUM MATERIALS CORPORATION has a steadfast vision that advanced technology is the solution to global issues related to cost, efficiency and increasing energy usage. Quantum dot semiconductors enable a new level of performance in a wide array of established consumer and industrial products, including low cost flexible solar cells, low power lighting and displays and biomedical research applications. Quantum Materials Corporation will invigorate these markets through cost reduction by replacing lab based experiments with volume manufacturing methods to establish a growing line of innovative high performance products.

*** Note to Readers. We at Trinity Alliance, LLP and GenesisNanoTech, have been following this company for over 3 years now. We are pleased to share their vision with all of you at this time. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact this author at:       ***

Quantum Materials Corporation is a development stage nanotechnology and advanced materials company. We perceive an opportunity to acquire a significant amount of the nanomaterials market by commercializing a low cost high volume tetrapod quantum dot production process based on our exclusive license agreement with William Marsh Rice University and on additional proprietary processes and specialized knowledge that has been developed by the company and through our agreement with Access2Flow, a Netherlands based consortium focused on continuous flow chemistry. Our objective is to commercialize our high volume nanomaterials production processes and to use these materials to enable advanced and disruptive technologies that depend on a ready source of low cost materials in order for these technologies to become commercially viable.

SOLTERRA RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGIES, INC., a wholly owned subsidiary of QMC, is singularly positioned to lead the development of truly sustainable and cost-effective solar technology by introducing a new dimension of cost reduction by replacing silicon wafer-based solar cells with low-cost, highly efficient 3rd Generation, Quantum Dot-based solar cells.


SEC 10-K for year ending June 2012.  Here is the link:

Invited speaker at IdTechEx Printed Electronics USA 2012 . Our topic is “Quantum Dots: The Future is Now” The date is Dec. 5th at the Santa Clara Convention Center. If you will be attending either the conference or just the Trade Show, please let me know. Mr. Squires will be available for business related meetings.

Invited Speaker at the Emerging Molecular Diagnostics Partnering Forum on Feb 11-12 just prior to Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference Feb 12-13 (Moscone, SF) where we will for the first time be an Exhibitor. This is a tremendous opportunity because our quantum dots can fulfill so many needs in pharma and biomedicine. Mr. Squires topic is “Flow Chemistry Process Biocompatible Inorganic High Quantum Yield Tetrapod Quantum Dots For The Next Generation of Diagnostic Assays, Multiplexed Drug Delivery Platforms and POC Devices” Mr. Squires will again be available for business-related meetings.

QMC is in early stage discussions with a worldwide manufacturer/distributor/retailer of consumer goods concerning participation in the development of quantum dot consumer products that could result in two or more possible product collaborations for retail mass production and distribution. This would provide QMC and Solterra with an experienced partner in design, production, marketing and sale outlets for new consumer products. Further research and discussions are needed and industrial and commercial applications of these products could be developed independently of any alliance.

QMC has a NDA and is in discussions with a large molecular biology company currently successfully marketing recombinant proteins to researchers to functionalize QMC TQD to their own recombinant proteins, antibodies, aptamers, and peptides as value added product to sell to researchers in the life sciences. QMC is actively pursuing this same biotech market for other companies amenable to non-exclusive licensing of our quantum dots for research purposes or joint venture for development of advanced diagnostic tools delivering instant results at low cost or the use of our TQD as a drug delivery platform.

We are a public company traded OTC as QTMM


Quantum Dots, R2R, Nanotechnology, Solar, Biomedical, Nanobio



NanoMarkets OLED Lighting Market Forecast – Q2 2012


In the past year OLED lighting markets and production infrastructure have evolved.  For example, office lighting has become a key market target for OLED lighting, while other applications no longer command the interest they once did.  At the same time, while some likely future mass producers of OLED lighting seem to be committing more resources, others seem to be failing in their efforts.

With all this in mind, this report provides NanoMarkets’ latest market forecasts for OLED lighting.  Our company has been actively tracking the OLED lighting market for more than five years and this report represents a more detailed forecast than any we have ever produced before.

In this report, we consider the revenue potential for the OLED lighting applications that currently interest the OLED market the most.  We think these have changed since last year and now comprise luxury consumer lighting, decorative lighting for large buildings and showrooms, office lighting, residential lighting and automotive lighting.  Another change in this year’s report is that we have provided a much more detailed analysis of pricing trends in OLED lighting than ever before In particular, in addition to looking at pricing expectations of leading manufacturers, we have also examined the likely roadmaps for pricing by unit, luminance and square meter and how these three measures are likely to correspond.

Obviously, no one can be completely sure of how the developments in the OLED lighting market will ultimately pan out and with that in mind we consider other prominent forecasts for this market including a worse-case scenario in which OLED lighting never succeeds in growing beyond the luxury lighting sector, along with some ultra-optimistic scenarios that have emerged from apparently respectable sources.

The forecasts in this report are in value and volume (square meter and unit) terms and are broken out by applications.  We also consider how the OLED lighting market is likely to be shared among various major countries and regions as it evolves.  Finally, we examine how our forecasts tie in with the emergence of OLED lighting manufacturing capacity, around the world.