Startup and Industrial Research at the Molecular Foundry: from R&D to Commercialization

Session 4A: 10:00 AM – 12:05 PM Pacific Time on Friday, August 21.

Peter Ercius*, Ricardo Ruiz, Alexander Stibor

The user community of the Molecular Foundry brings together a wide breadth of researchers from academic to national laboratory to commercial backgrounds, and since its founding has supported researchers in their commercialization plans. Startups and industrial partners include a wide range of fields such as bio, inorganic, semiconductors or optical and electron microscopy. They have utilized the Molecular Foundry’s infrastructure and expertise as well as DOE SBIR (Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research) funding as a bridge between research and development activities to commercialization. Together, commercial researchers and staff are working to push technology developed for basic research to seed products available to a much wider audience in the commercial landscape. This symposium is a forum to showcase the commercial research ongoing with the Molecular Foundry to help foster an increasingly rich diversity of users and ideas.

Symposium Schedule:

10:00 am
10:25 am

Dr. Jared Schwede, Spark Thermionics

10:50 am

Norman Salmon, Hummingbird Scientific

11:15 am

Dr. Christina Newcomb, Scuba Probe Technologies

11:40 am

Dr. Thomas Boussie, Activate / Cyclotron Road

Symposium Abstracts:

10:00 AM

Novel Electron Optical Instrumentation for High Resolution Imaging and Spectroscopy

Dr. Marian Mankos
Electron Optica Inc.
Coauthor: Khashayar Shadman

Recent advances in cryo-electron microscopy, ultrafast electron diffraction and microscopy (UEM), and emerging imaging techniques such as multipass TEM have spurred renewed interest in the development of novel electron-optical instrumentation for imaging and spectroscopic applications with improved spatial, temporal and energy resolution.

With the assistance of the DOE SBIR program, we continue to develop novel instrumentation to support the needs of the electron microscopy user community. We have developed a mirror electron monochromator for reducing the energy spread of high brightness electron sources from the characteristic range of 0.3 – 1 eV to values below 100 meV. In collaboration with LBNL, we are building a novel coherent single-electron gun (CSEG) that aims to reduce the energy spread of emitted electrons to the range of tens of meV while maintaining a high beam current in the nano amp range. Furthermore, in collaboration with SLAC, we are building a UEM column with atomic resolution (3  Ångstroms), operating in the MeV range. The UEM aims to reduce the electron pulse length into the sub-nanosecond range for single shot applications with up to 10 million electrons/pulse and into the deep femtosecond range for stroboscopic applications with thousands of electrons/pulse.

10:25 AM

Spark Thermionics’ research and development at the Molecular Foundry

Dr. Jared Schwede
Spark Thermionics

Spark Thermionics is building a power plant on a chip, a generator that can efficiently convert any fuel to electricity at a fraction the size and weight of the state-of-the-art. Spark was founded to bring truly scalable, dispatchable, and distributed electricity anywhere in the world.

Thermionic energy conversion directly generates electricity from heat. When a material gets hot enough, it evaporates electrons, which can be collected as a sources of direct current. Thermionics was first studied for ultra-dense power generation as part of the space race, but has been largely set aside for decades.

Recently, Spark and its collaborators, including at the Foundry, have reinvented this technology using new materials and fabrication techniques. In this talk, we will highlight some of the exciting work that has been done in collaboration with Foundry scientists.

10:50 AM

Making the transition from National Lab to a Company

Norman Salmon
Hummingbird Scientific

Mr. Salmon is the co-founder and president of the company and will speak about their experience starting Hummingbird Scientific. Hummingbird Scientific is a supplier of sample holders and custom hardware for the electron and x-ray microscopy fields. The company founders are former Berkeley Lab members. The company has leveraged the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs and partnerships with many Universities and National Labs to develop more than a dozen new products.

11:15 AM

Innovative SPM Probes for Underwater Nanoscience

Dr. Christina Newcomb
Scuba Probe Technologies
Coauthors: Hilary Brunner1, Dominik Ziegler1, Paul Ashby2
1Scuba Probe Technologies; 2Molecular Foundry

Scuba Probe Technologies offers scanning probe products that enable scientists to explore nanoscale science in liquids and address in-situ applications ranging from energy storage to biology. The company specializes in the development of two products that are compatible with any commercial scanning probe microscope and are designed to simplify challenging experiments: encased cantilevers and insulated cantilevers.

Encased cantilevers are equipped with a hollow, hydrophobic encasement that surrounds the cantilever to keep the resonator dry while immersed in liquid. This overcomes limitations of viscous damping in water facilitating high resolution in-situ imaging, leading high resolution capabilities in biological environments, and allowing automated instrument setup. The encasement provides a ten-fold improvement in signal to noise and leads to a better understanding of biological processes at the molecular scale. Superior imaging performance is demonstrated on fragile DNA assemblies enabling the study of their structure in-situ.

Insulated cantilevers are electrically insulated with the very apex of the conductive tip exposed, enabling techniques such as scanning electrochemical microscopy that map the local electrochemical reactivity of a surface in liquid with currents on the order of tens of pA. With low leakage currents, easy handling, and reliable electrical connections, these cantilevers correlate chemical surface activity and topography on the nanometer length scale.

11:40 AM

Cyclotron Road: Transitioning Basic Science to Science-Based Companies

Dr. Thomas Boussie
Activate / Cyclotron Road

Cyclotron Road is a Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP) program run in partnership between LBNL and This program helps early-stage technical entrepreneurs transition lab-scale technologies to commercial application. In addition to the programmatic support of the Activate / Cyclotron Road program team, fellows receive two-years of salary, health benefits, $100 K in lab funds, and access to the facilities of LBNL and UC Berkeley. Many fellows utilize the resources of the Molecular Foundry and other LBL and UC Berkeley user facilities to advance their technologies. This talk will provide an overview of the Cyclotron Road program and highlight examples companies leveraging Lab assets to transition basic science to create science-based companies.