The roads, more resistant to the ravages of winter, would have far fewer potholes.
The primary ingredient in their product? Recycled tires.
“When you put rubber in roads, it makes [the surface] more flexible where it doesn’t crack,” explains the company’s CEO, Hari Chandra.
Chandra and his father, Chandrasekaran Pillia, own Quantum Polymer Composites, which has been producing tire retreads for 20 years. The business started in Malaysia and later moved to the United States.
Now they’re working with TBEIC (pronounced T-bike) to find a location for their spinoff company, Full Circle Technologies, which recycles tires into an additive for asphalt.
“We have a chemical-mechanical process that we use to convert that scrap rubber back into sticky rubber and then we pelletize it – making it into little pellets,” says Chandra as he pours pellets from a jar into his other hand.
From there, the pellets are dissolved into liquid asphalt with small rocks then mixed in. Chandra says the product makes roads more durable and flexible than the available technology.
“They use rubber in roads today but the problem is it’s petroleum-based,” Chandra explains, “and when the price of petroleum goes up, the price goes up. In our case it’s from old tires. It’s sustainable and it’s not tied to the price of petroleum.”
If everything progresses as planned, Chandra says, the Ohio Department of Transportation has agreed to allow the company to place a test section somewhere in Ohio this summer.
“Quantum Polymer looks to be in their final stages of testing and should be commercial soon,” says Dave Nestic, CEO of TBEIC, as he shows the two entrepreneurs the renovations underway at the center’s future home, 125 W. Market St., in downtown Warren.
TBEIC, described as the “energy” counterpart to the more widely known Youngstown Business Incubator, is helping the company secure financing, make presentations and look for a site for its headquarters.
While the renovations are progressing slowly because of funding and a rough winter, Nestic says the program itself is going strong.
TBEIC has been working with 30 to 40 energy and clean tech companies over the past 18 months from a temporary office in The Raymond John Wean Foundation building a couple of doors down.
“The building is scheduled to be completed this year, in 2014. So I would anticipate in 12 to 24 months it would be full of companies,” says Nestic.
On this day, workers are busy hammering and drilling inside the two-story building that will not only house 10 to 15 startup companies, but an energy innovation lab as well. The state recently awarded $250,000 in capital funds for the project.
“The energy innovation lab is intended to be this shared center that has equipment that a company on its own wouldn’t purchase because it’s too expensive to purchase outright,” explains Nestic. “And they might only need it for three weeks at a time. But they can lease access to that equipment in a shared environment.
“It will have specialized equipment that gives them the ability to test their products at really early stages,” he continues, “to build proof-of-conception and [offer] demonstrations and show strategic partners and customers what the value of the technology is.”
Herb Crowther, the CEO of another startup, Megajoule Storage, is also on site for a tour.
“You’d be able to set up your experiments here,” Nestic points out on the second floor of the future center as they dodge nails and jagged pieces of wood covered with sawdust.
Megajoule Storage is based in the Magnet incubator on the campus of Cleveland State University and was founded to commercialize utility-scale energy storage.
Crowther says, in effect, that Megajoule produces large-scale batteries that help to improve power quality and reduce costs by storing energy from coal plants, fuel cells or any source, then discharging that energy when the power’s needed.
“Businesses across the board are starting to use energy storage,” explains Crowther. He says his company’s biggest business opportunity is a hybrid capacitor, a device that charges quickly but discharges slowly.
“It’s the same as a lead-acid battery in a car except it uses a capacitor electrode, which gives it the ability to have 10 times the life of a lead-acid battery and to perform in ways lead-acid batteries can’t,” he says.
Megajoule has the exclusive distribution rights for stationary large-scale applications, Crowther says, which he points out can improve the quality of power and protect against power interruptions, reducing the strain on the power grid during peak use.
“Our business model is to work with partners who already have a product and take it to a different market. And in our case we’ll have a variety of solutions for combining storage with renewable energy or combining energy storage in a commercial or industrial building to reduce their costs. We can also provide energy to the utility grid to stabilize the grid,” he says.
Crowther is eager for the TBEIC testing lab to be completed. TBEIC is working with Megajoule to identify a list of equipment it and other companies with related products would need.
“They’re building a facility that’s going to have test equipment for cycling the batteries, charging and discharging them,” Crowther explains. “That’s a critical element to bringing a new product like this to market – to get third-party validation and it’s very time intensive.”
TBEIC is part of the Jumpstart Entrepreneurial Network that helps businesses through the early stage to access capital and build partnerships.
Both Megajoule Storage and Full Circle Technologies are two of the companies ready to take the next step. Nestic says TBEIC has been helping them find temporary space until the building is ready.
“We believe if we stay focused on building value to the industry, it will naturally have a spinoff effect on the local economy,” Nestic says. “We want to build a center that industry looks to and says, ‘We want to be doing business with TBEIC.’
“When that happens, then the center will be full, a lot of jobs will be created, and it will have a core effect in downtown Warren and in building opportunity in our local region.”
Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the May edition of The Business Journal.
Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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