Savanna Engineering Research
and Development Companies Receive Grant Funding
June 18, 2012 – Two local companies, Fluidic microControls, Inc. (FmC) and N-Ovation, Inc., located at Savanna Depot Park, recently received Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards.
Of over four hundred Phase I SBIR applicants, FmC was one of twenty-five companies nationally selected to receive an award from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The winning research project is titled “A 10 Kilowatt Rankine Cycle Agricultural Waste-to-energy Conversion Module Utilizing Ultra Micro Turbo-alternators.” FmC submitted its proposal after recognizing the need for scaled-down anaerobic manure digester systems for smaller dairy farms. Technology currently available isn’t economically feasible with less than 500 head of cattle but 94% of US dairy operations have less than 500 cows.
“The present chemical process for producing nitrogen-based fertilizer using natural gas is over 100 years old. Modern electronic technology offers the potential to allow farmers around the world to be able to manufacture their own fertilizer at costs below today’s market value,” states Dr. Richard Mattas, Principal Investigator for the N-Ovation project.
Gary Frederick, Principal Investigator for the FmC project and shareholder in N-Ovation, Inc. explained that the two company’s projects are mutually beneficial and that excess electricity generated by the anaerobic manure digestion system could be used to fuel the nitrogen manufacturing system. “The two systems being developed by FmC and N-Ovation combined with other components could one day lead to the creation of a completely energy independent farm. The funding of these projects is a step in the right direction for our country to lead the world toward independence from carbon-based fuels,” Frederick said.
One of the components limiting the ability to scale the technology down is an affordable means to convert methane captured through anaerobic digestion into electricity. Utilizing its patent-pending air bearing technology, FmC is developing a modular system to burn methane to create energy with as little as ten head of cattle.
Environmental benefits of this technology include the burning of the greenhouse gas Methane (CH4) before it is released into the atmosphere and the creation of an electrical energy source as an alternative to burning carbon-based fossil fuels. The primary goal of this program is to apply this technology to provide an effective energy conversion module for small farm manure digestion systems, with an ultimate goal to provide a universal energy recovery module, which can cost-effectively recover energy from a variety of waste streams, regardless of size.
This technology can be used for providing combined heat and power for rural homes or small farm plots typical of third world countries.
N-Ovation, Inc., is the recipient of an award from the US Department of Agriculture. The winning project is for the development of an On-Farm Nitrogen Manufacturing System. At present, the world consumes approximately 100,000,000 tons of fertilizer per year, with a total market of $80-$100 Billion per year. About 90% of the cost of fertilizer is due to the cost of natural gas, and it is estimated that fertilizer production uses 3-5% of the world’s production of natural gas. The goal of this project is to develop advanced manufacturing processes and equipment for efficiently making nitrogen fertilizer directly on the farm from air, water, and electricity, which has the potential to cut fertilizer costs in half to under $500/ton. The system envisioned is composed of modules that operate at a power of 10 Kilowatts each, with five modules being sufficient to produce the fertilizer needs of a 100 acre corn farm. With farm-generated power, the advanced system would eliminate the release of CO2 in current fertilizer manufacture processes. The new system can totally replace natural gas for making ammonia-based fertilizer, eliminate off-farm transportation, and provide thousands of jobs to manufacture and service farm-based systems.
The USEPA and USDA are two of eleven Federal Agencies that participate in the SBIR program, enacted in 1982 to strengthen the role of small businesses in federal research and development, create jobs and promote technical innovation in the United States.
FmC and N-Ovation, Inc. are co-located at Savanna Depot Park, formerly the Savanna Army Depot, that is now being redeveloped for other commercial and business uses. Having successfully been awarded Phase I grants by the USEPA and the USDA, both companies are now eligible to request additional funding through the agencies’ Phase II and Phase III funding opportunities upon successful proof of concept of the projects during Phase I.