Editor’s note: This is one in a series of posts about companies LaunchTN has supported through the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund.
After three years of pitching with little luck, Captis Aire founder Kim Tutin now has an award-winning company that’s in the process of negotiating a $2.5-million award from the Department of Energy and Boeing.
“Really one of the things that’s helped us in terms of getting buy-in is our fellowship at Innovation Crossroads,” she said. “Ever since we got in with Oak Ridge, people are now listening to us.”
Tutin has developed technology, called CAIRE™, which captures more than 90% of terpenes — a waste product from wood products manufacturing processes, and converts it into valuable chemicals, including those used in products such as biofuels, flavors and fragrances. Currently these terpenes are commonly burned as wastes, which release greenhouse gasses.
Captis Aire is now about a year into the two-year Innovation Crossroads program for fellows focusing on energy and advanced manufacturing technologies.
The company was recently one out of only six in the country to win the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Chemical Challenge Awards.
“Having won this award from the world-renowned U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives us unmatched credibility,” Tutin said. “This is especially valuable in our company and our CAIRE™ technology, because our technology is an air pollution control device. Air pollution control is regulated, in part, by the EPA.”
The company’s technology is also going through the due diligence process with the Department of Energy.
Tutin said she’s hopeful that money will come in by next January, and then the plan is to do a pilot demonstration of the technology, while Oak Ridge National Laboratory works to develop fuels using the technology.
The idea is for the CAIRE™ technology to replace current air pollution controls, which is done by burning pollutants.
“This baseline technology creates greenhouse gasses and is very expensive to operate,” Tutin said.
If just 50 out of the hundreds of potential sites utilized the CAIRE™ technology, greenhouse gasses (GHG) could be reduced by 1 billion pounds a year, she also said.
Tech in Tennessee
Her company has been well-received in Tennessee, and Tutin said the state does a good job of supporting what she called “hard tech,” which she described as projects that require expensive “steel-in-the-ground-type systems,” as opposed to information technology that can more easily be developed anywhere with fewer physical resources.
She’s found entrepreneurial resources throughout the state in communications/promotions, pitching events, local training resources, networking opportunities and “supportive groups of every kind.”
“Oak Ridge National Lab and the University of Tennessee provide a wealth of resources to entrepreneurs, especially for those in hard tech,” she said. “They have both physical resources including an incredibly wide range of physical assets as well as deep expertise via their scientific staff.”
She learned about LaunchTN through Innovation Crossroads, too.
Earlier this year, LaunchTN matched the Department of Energy award with a $100,000 matching grant.