Business Rx: CloudSolar is ready to heat up its business
The mid-November chill has hit Washington, but Michael Armani and Ramik Chopra say you could still be enjoying your outdoor swimming pool with their innovation that aims to increase the efficiency of a pool's solar water heater.
The swimming pool market was not even on Armani's radar as the PhD candidate in bioengineering set out to improve solar heating in general.
"It's the payback period for solar technologies that is the real limiting factor," Armani said. "I started developing technologies -- literally in my back yard -- to see what I could do to improve the efficiency."
He studied the way panels are currently made and developed his own more efficient formula for the black liquid that courses through solar panels to retain and circulate heat from the sun. He teamed up with Chopra, then an MBA student at the University of Maryland, to start CloudSolar Inc. in Olney and bring his patent-pending innovation to the market. They built prototypes and tested them all summer.
"CloudSolar has developed a patent-pending and environmentally benign fluid that improves the efficiency of solar thermal heat collectors and reduces their costs. This would be useful for the swimming pool industry and solar residential water heating worldwide.
"In addition, we are developing new fluids to improve the properties of heat transfer, heat capacity and viscosity for heat-exchange processes, which can be used in many different markets.
"At this stage, we're trying to develop the nine commercial applications we've identified for our innovation. It could take some time to try each one out and determine our licensing strategy."
"We've talked to a few people in the industry, but finding licensing partners is one of the biggest challenges. We need to narrow down who we could partner with, and at the same time continue to develop new prototypes with the technologies."