Matrix and the vision of a self-powering smart universe
Smart watches that don't need charging, connected beacons and sensors all around the planet that don't need batteries.
Matrix Industries is a company that is trying Trying to solve how to power small things to never need batteries or replacement.
It sounds kind of magical, they use thermoelectrics to make this happen and in the future, they're gonna explore using solar energy and maybe vibrational energy, combine them, and store them.
Right now in watches and coming up in little base stations that could power beacons.
And the technology, hey, here's how it works in a hat.
This is Matrix' thermoelectric tech in this sensor.
That's a big one.
The goal is to make that smaller.
But I took a tour of the labs and here's what's coming.
Coming for batteries but also for figurations.
Matrix industry created a heat powered smart watch two years ago.
The power watch That use temperature gradients to generate low power.
The company's next step is to collect those same temperature gradient differences in the air and use the energy to power low-energy sensors, bluetooth beacons and maybe even smoke alarms and other network smart sensors.
I'm here with Douglas Tham, Chief Technology Officer at Matrix Industries.
So we're in your lab in Menlo Park, where all this is made.
What happens here in this space?
Thanks for coming by.
What we do here is the secret sauce of our material.
We nanostructure this bulk material in this lab.
So in this environment where there's no oxygen, there's no moisture, we can actually mix and synthesize the powders safely.
So we take that powder, we reconstitute it into a form that we can then follow our process on.
There's some other equipment here, for example, that we use to deposit Electrical contacts so this machine can actually deposit very thin films of nickel, copper, gold that we can use as electrical contacts for the material.
So what are we coming up to next?
So this, actually, this machine is responsible for reconstituting the powders that we made earlier.
And it does this by applying up to 25 tons of Pressure on a small piece of material, yes.
Does compressing it into the material, into wafers, and-
Into a pellet, yeah, into a wafer, a disc, or even a rod.
And so I actually have a sample over here.
So this is what happens to it after it's been pressed together.
And you haven't seen the powder, but it is a powder, just like Any other powder.
And that's your conductive, super heat conductive, but also not as thermally conductive.
Super electrically conductive right I mean it's electrically conductive but thermally insulating.
Sorry electrically conductive but thermally insulating material.
But then from this material you can then cut out, We call them pellets, little cubes of material, and arrange them in a predefined pattern to be assembled in a module this.
So, then inside this module between the two white ceramic plates are little pieces of this disc that have been cut up and arranged in a predefined pattern.
And so when heat flows through the ceramic from here to here, the material converts that into electricity and that electricity comes out from these two leads.
All the technology started with that?
Yes, this is a building block of One of the core parts of our technology, this is one of the building blocks of it.
The Matrix Power Station looks like a homemade Amazon Echo with a fridge on top.
It generates enough power to run one sensor or beacon.
The goal is to make these canisters smaller and integrate them into arrays in homes, labs, and outdoors.
So this is just a container that is reasonably well and thermally insulated.
We put our Luna face change material in there.
Along with some structures to support it.
And what that does is that thermal energy comes in via temperature fluctuations in the environment.
Goes into, is channelled into the material through the inside.
And is stored inside the [UNKNOWN] material so that when the room is warm that material gets warmer as well and then when the room gets colder, because the material is warmer it releases the heat back.
Through our module they've already seen.
And that heat is then converted into electricity.
So this is the first prototype that we hacked into.
[CROSSTALK] So that's a Thermos one, no longer a Thermos.
You moved into, like a box.
[CROSSTALK] We moved into this little box that we actually 3D printed ourselves.
We have a 3D printer.
And it's the same concept, but now shrunk down into a more manageable space.
This is actually a cutaway.
To power a beacon type sensor for indoor use, we like to shrink it to as small as we can get.
So this is the size we envision would be really amenable to sticking onto a wall.
We're installing somewhere on a false ceiling or something and this would be able to provide power for perhaps an indoor occupancy sensor, maybe a smoke detector.
So, the goal is to make eventually invisible enough, they would be-
They be like-
Flow into the environment.
The company's even exploring ways to apply thermal electric to refrigeration.
Maybe for even smaller devices or for vending machines.
This is really a very early prototype of our very fast refrigeration beverage cooling device.
The way it works is basically you put a soda can at room temperature and in less than a minute you've got a 4 degree celcius Soda can in your hand.
It's super cold, and it cools it down incredibly fast, faster than anything ever created.
The company's exploring solar power, plus thermoelectics, to power its next fitness smartwatch.
For our next-generation Power Watch, it's gonna have a much broader array of features.
Then the first one, because of the fact that we made all these enhancements in efficiency and in bringing out, in other types of energy harvesting modalities, beyond just body heat conversion.
If 5G and smart cities are going to blanket our world and connected things, maybe self powered sensors are the solution.
We see ourselves really morphing into more of an energy harvesting company rather than just purely a thermoelectric company.
So we want to capture as many of the ways that mother nature gives us to generate power.