An MIT spinoff just getting off the ground received a huge helping hand from the U.S. Department of Energy on Monday. FastCAP Systems, of Cambridge, MA, received a two-and-a-half-year, $5.35 million grant in the first round of funding ever issued by the new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The company aims to commercialize a nanotube-enhanced ultracapacitor, an energy storage device that could greatly reduce the cost of hybrid and electric vehicles and of fast-responding grid-scale energy storage, making it easier to integrate renewable energy sources such as solar and wind-based power.
"The ARPA-E grant represents the ability to ramp up faster," says Joel Schindall, the MIT professor in whose lab the technology was originally developed. "We now have the resources to do the things that we've been wanting to do for the last few years."
ARPA-E was inspired by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); like DARPA, it is chartered with supporting high-risk, high-reward research--but ARPA-E is focused on projects that could provide innovative solutions to the problems of climate change and energy security rather than defense. An agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, ARPA-E received $400 million in initial funding from the federal government in April. On Monday, it announced the awardees in its first round of grants to small businesses, universities, and large corporations. Thirty-seven projects were funded, receiving an average of approximately $4 million each. ARPA-E received more than 3,600 concept papers, and the final winners were selected from about 300 full applications.