Friday, March 7, 2008

New Gadgets at Energy Technology Venture Capital Conference

This conference, organized by the Houston Technology Center, took place yesterday and today. I did not register for the conference because I could not make the first day and today was just a half day, but I was invited to lunch today and to see the exhibits. The lunchtime keynote speaker was John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil. I had heard him give the keynote at another conference last week, and it was essentially the same speech though it seemed more polished this time. (He gave it at least one more time in between also.) It wasn't what most climate change activists would want to hear, but at least he was unequivocal in saying that we needed a cap-and-trade system. He said it was time to stop arguing about whether climate change was real and get on with doing something about it.

More interesting to me were some of the exhibits, which I hope to cover in more detail at a later date. Here are three that caught my attention.

A Company called EnerPlus ( has a new kind of spark plug which utilizes a capacitor to greatly increase the size of the spark, resulting in more complete combustion and a claimed improvement of 6% in economy and up to 12% in power output.

A company called Adaptive-AC allows each room in your house to be controlled by a programmable intelligent thermostat built into the air conditioning outlet. The thermostat adjusts the temperature by opening and closing flaps so as to regulate the air flow, thereby balancing the temperature over the house. (Or not balancing it, if for example you don’t want A/C in the living room when you are asleep in bed.) The unit is powered by a small generator driven from the air flow, and stored in an ultracapacitor for when the A/C is off, so there are no batteries. The product is not in volume production yet. (For technology junkies, the protypes were made with a 3-D printer, which is the first application of this technology I have come across.)

A company called DBLive ( controls sprinkler systems by using the weather forecast to generate soil moisture forecast by location, this information being transmitted along with a local FM radio signal. This product is not in production yet, but will soon be undergoing trial in the Houston area.

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