Shamrock Energy Corp., the first company to come out of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, is studying nanomaterials in order to create better electrical energy storage devices, which would enhance green technologies.
Chemistry professor and founder of the company Charles Gibson started his research on nanomaterials soon after he joined UW Oshkosh in 1991.
“When I started working in the field, the main problem was that, with few exceptions, nobody knew how to make nanomaterials,” Gibson said. “That’s because most nanomaterials are unstable, which makes them really difficult to make. They are also difficult to study because they are so small.”
Gibson described nanomaterials as substances that have unusually small dimensions and are usually less than 100 nm. The tiny substances have unusual and unexpected properties, which when exploited make them useful for scientists and engineers wanting to create something.
“At first I focused on inventing ways to make new nanomaterials and then investigating their properties to see how they differed from the non-nano version of the same substance,” Gibson said. “My main interest at that point was the challenge of making something completely new.”
As time went on, Gibson changed the focus of his research to developing nanomaterials for a specific application. In 2007, the chemistry professor decided to create nanomaterials specifically intended to improve electrical energy storage devices.
Funded by WiSys, an organization that supports commercialization of new technologies coming out of UW System campuses, Gibson hired Annamalai Karthikeyan to help with the research. Shortly after Karthikeyan joined the team, Gibson decided to create a company that could manufacture and sell the devices that they developed.
“By forming this company, my research program shifted from a purely University effort to a University, business collaborative program,” Gibson said. “By the beginning of 2010, it was clear that our inventions had significant value and could be used in products for original equipment manufacturers and consumers.”
In December 2010, Gibson and his team joined with a group of external investors to provide the necessary capital and business knowledge. With this arrangement, the name of the company became Shamrock Energy Corp.
“In five to 10 years, we hope to be a major world-wide supplier of electrical energy storage devices,” Gibson said. “Our inventions will lead to power supplies that are much smaller and last much longer.”
An example of where Gibson’s work will be extremely helpful is in electrical vehicles. The new inventions will be able to cut the size of the vehicle’s power supply by 50 percent, and yet the power supply will last longer.
“We plan to make and sell electrical energy storage devices to offer higher energy, faster recharge and longer lifetime than competing devices,” Gibson said. “These devices are used in many applications, which make them really important to society.”