AmSteel innovator Adam Freeman’s company alGas Biotech focuses on creating alternative energy sources based on the biomechanics of algae. This innovative technology uses the “properties of plants, polymers, and ionic liquids to improve the chemical reaction which makes a battery system.” Read more about this fascinating new field of exploration!
American Steel: Who are you?
Adam Freeman: I consider myself a gentleman scientist, balancing many hats to fulfill my need to exercise my fascination for understanding. My days are spent evaluating medical devices as an Investigator for the Food and Drug Administration. My nights are spent doing research in an array of medias.
My love for speed and muscle cars has lead me down a path of learning about biofuels and building systems to run them. After many years of research in the biofuels arena, I observed viability issues as did many. The knowledge I took from this led me to explore alternative uses for biotechnology and nanotechnology.
I went to school in Georgia, Kennesaw State University, where I learned about biochemistry. I learned that the most incredible systems are designed by nature. This philosophy has intrigued my curiosity and led me to explore applications for biotechnology.
From yeast, e. Coli, and diatoms serving as tiny manufacturing plants programed to sweat things like fuels and petro based chemicals, to using the properties of these biological machines to build or optimize systems we use today. My previous studies in this field has led to what I consider one of my most promising and most intriguing projects: Organic batteries.
While in the bay area I have constructed a team of scientists and experts to help me create an optimized battery system. We have been hacking the components of battery systems to perform better at their intended use. I consider it tuning established technology. Typical batteries rely on a chemical reaction to store and provide energy. We are using the properties of plants, polymers, and ionic liquids to improve the chemical reaction which makes a battery system.
AS: What do you do?
AF: I consider myself a jack of all trades. I am not the “best” at anything, but I am well rounded. I study music, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, chess, and lately I’ve been exploring the concepts of electrical engineering to support my battery project.
What has been your most exciting accomplishment recently?
AF: Last week I was welcomed into the QB3 start-up in a box program. With this I am being provided with a wealth of resources to help my organic battery project gain momentum. Additionally, I came in third at the BlueSkyBio competition through SynBioBeta where I was also awarded $17,000 in credits for ScienceExchange. The prize also provided my company, alGAS Biotechnology Inc., with a free law firm to help guide us through the process of protecting our intellectual property and navigate through the scary process of taking outside investments for the battery project.
AS: American Steel Studios is primarily an art studio. You are doing some pretty impressive R+D. How does American Steel Studios support the work that you do?
AF: Not only has American Steel provided me with a space to hack away at projects, it has fostered my innovative and artistic sides as well. Instead of working out of an isolated garage where I used to spend many quiet nights working alone until sunrise, I am now surrounded by a plethora of artists and innovators. If I run into problems or can’t find or have a tool, almost certainly one of my neighbors does. In addition, they have the experience to give me some advisement before I break into an unknown and screw something up.
For my battery project, many of the tools I need do not exist or are too costly for me to afford. As such, I have had to design alternatives to industry and laboratory equipment needed to really work smart on my project. We have been working to build ergonomic testing platforms usable for high throughput testing, optimizing, and performing quality control for our battery and its components.
AS: How do you fund your research and product development?
AF: My research has been funded on a shoe string budget. To date, there has been no outside investment other than resources we have obtained through presenting at competitions. My co-founders have all been working for free on the project (as have I). My co-founders include:
Dr. Paul Wolski, who has a PHD from UC Berkeley in Comparative Biochemistry, and is currently teaching at Stanford University.
Dr. Juan VillaRomero, who has a PHD from UC Berkeley in Microbiology, and is currently employed doing water quality studies for the California’s version of the environmental protection agency.
Eduardo Dominguez, who has an MBA from Golden Gate University, and has worked in finance for several large pharma companies.
Together we have been navigating through the path of fabricating energy storage systems which will be biodegradable, hopefully non-toxic, rechargeable, injection moldable, and will have much better energy density than batteries of today.
AS: What is next for you?
AF: Well, we have just hired an animator to help us make a scientific illustration of our concept. We intend to have them make us a three minute or so pitch which will be projected through a crowdfunding site to give us some money to get materials we need to make our next round of prototypes. We want to send these prototypes out for independent analysis to laboratories where they have the know how to characterize our designs. Once we have good working model we will have much better leverage for closing deals with outside investors.
Additionally, we are going through the process of applying for an SBIR grant through the Department of Energy. We will be given mentorship through QB3 to submit our proposal and hopefully that will make big waves for us to ride on in our path to making our batteries.
We hope to partner with companies like Tesla, Boosted Boards, as well as aerospace and racing companies to become suppliers of component parts for their systems. We would like to make OEM shaped dashboards and interior parts for electric vehicles which serve as the battery for the vehicle. Instead vehicles possessing embedded batteries, we will make the interior parts of the car the battery. Using nanotechnological and biotechnological features, we will be able to make these systems more capable, environmentally friendly, and lighter.
We would like to replace the long board of the Boosted Board with a composite battery board which will store exponentially more energy than the battery packs they install on their wood boards. We would like to integrate our battery tech into cell phones, satellites, and electric formula race cars. We have already been approached by many companies in regards to our project, but we are still learning how to navigate through the process of making all the aspects of a company work well. Outside funding will help with getting us the resources we need to hit go and speed up our discovery and development process.