Advanced Electron Beams, With DOE and VC Money in Tow, Tackles Air Pollution

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accounts for roughly one-third of the energy used in the U.S. The private sector has also dedicated an additional $5 million to the effort.

Here’s how it will work. AEB is exploring ways to use its electron beam device to break down volatile organic compounds that result from a number of industrial processes. At present, large, high-energy thermal oxidizers burn off the chemicals, which are essentially precursors to smog, Tyson says. These existing methods of using heat to break down the complex hydrocarbon chains do so inefficiently, he says.

“Heat is like shaking it until it breaks,” Tyson says of the oxidizer method. “An electron beam is like using scissors to cut the bond.”

So the company is using the Department of Energy grant to test the applications for its product in breaking down organic solvents. The production of the electron beam itself is essentially the same across the different disciplines that AEB serves, but the size of the device that shoots the beam varies across disciplines.

The firm’s current products have emitters that range in width from less than one inch—designed to fit inside the nozzle of a bottle—to 16 inches. AEB, which has 47 employees, will use the $250,000 grant from the DOE to test for the ideal parameters for its electron beam emitter in tackling pollution, and could then be up for another federal grant to develop the device for the market, Tyson says.

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