Start-up wins funding to draw electricity from 'waste' heat

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers backs GMZ Energy, a stealth upstart spun out of Boston College and MIT to make nanotechnology material that converts heat to electricity.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica

A company has been formed to commercialize the thermoelectric research that CNET News.com wrote about on Thursday.

The CEO of GMZ Energy, Mike Clary, told VentureBeat that the company has received seed funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and described the Newton, Mass.-based start-up's plans.

Researchers at Boston College and the Massachusetts Institute of technology have found a way to more efficiently convert electricity from heat, a breakthrough they claim could make a wide range of products more energy-efficient.

The thermoelectric effect has been understood for a long time, but the researchers were able to use nanotechnology to make the process of generating electricity from heat far more efficient.

Clary said that the company's first product is a material that can withstand temperatures of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit used in a range of industrial products.

Cars that are partly powered from the heat of their exhaust systems are a good application of the technology, but the company intends to first target utility-scale power plants, which give off a great deal of waste heat, Clary told VentureBeat.

The technology researchers included Boston College physicist Zhifeng Ren, MIT professor of mechanical engineering Gang Chen, and famed nanotechnology MIT researcher Mildred Dresselhaus.

Update 2:55 p.m. Pacific: A spokesperson for GMZ Energy confirmed Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers invested in the company in April 2007.