Company seeks ‘clean’ energy sources.
Developing innovative technologies should be about making the world a better place to live. For Ann Arbor-based T/J Technologies, that means working to make the world a cleaner place. We recently spoke with cofounder and President Maria Thompson about T/J Technologies’ efforts to provide alternative energy products that are not only environmentally sound, but that also help us stop relying on environmentally harmful technologies.
What does T/J Technologies do?
T/J Technologies is a privately owned business that develops energy and power management technologies, including high-performance materials for lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries, ultracapacitors, sensors, and fuel cells. T/J Technologies is also developing and commercializing hybrid electrical power supplies that combine ultracapacitors with direct methanol fuel cells. These technologies impact products ranging from portable electronics to hybrid electric vehicles.
How will your research have an impact on the environment?
One of the best-known examples of a product that is harmful to the environment is the internal combustion engine. T/J is actively working on fuel cells and batteries, technologies that may aid in the reduction of the emissions from vehicles. In the short term, they will be incorporated with a traditional combustion engine to reduce the rate of harmful emissions. In the long term, the combustion engine may be completely replaced by a zero-emission battery or fuel cell, once the costs become competitive and the necessary infrastructure is developed.
We believe that our work on energy solutions will have significant impact on the environment. Right now, Americans spend more than $50 billion annually on health care to treat problems caused by air pollution. Congress has initiated many programs aimed at improving fuel efficiency and increasing the use of alternative fuels in the transportation sectors. As a result, research and development of high-efficiency or alternative fuel vehicles has become one of the top priorities in the auto industry. T/J Technologies has been actively pursuing advanced energy storage and conversion technologies to contribute to this endeavor.
What are some challenges that come with developing and manufacturing energy storage and conversion products that live up to high environmental standards?
We stay focused on developing environmentally benign materials and we talk with customers to make sure that the products that we are developing fit the performance and price characteristics that they require. However, it is challenging to get companies to use new materials and devices in their products because there are costs associated with any change.
Is there a misconception about buying environmentally sound products?
The problem faced by companies such as T/J Technologies is demonstrating that the benefit of new alternative energy technologies outweighs the cost and the risk of change. The financial markets are driven by large companies looking for immediate profits that they can take to the shareholders. However, the creation of new alternative energy technologies takes time, longer than many investors are willing to wait. Having said this, programs like the Advanced Technology Program, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), fill the gap by providing significant funding for the development of high-risk/high-benefit, leading-edge technologies.
What’s next from T/J Technologies?
We’ve spun off a new company, TJ Pulse, that’s focused on the commercialization of ultracapacitors. We feel it could become the global leader in ultracapacitors and related power devices for a wide range of applications, starting with consumer electronics and culminating in the growing backup power market.
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