PlanetShifter.com GreenBusiness Interview from Paris with Inventor and Energy Technologist Ari Minkkinen, Xsorb eco technology - by Willi Paul
Ari Minkkinen is an acclaimed creative chemical engineer with a proven track record of commercially successful process innovations in the oil, gas and renewable energy sector. Notable, among successful technologies and trademarks Ari fathered are: Ifpexol, Ipsorb, Hexorb, Sprex, HyGenSys and soon Xsorb. Xsorb is a unique process for the recovery of solar and/or waste industrial energy and its' storage for seasonal space heating of residential and commercial buildings.
How has your work in petro-chemicals advancing the green fuels sector?
Not at all, petrochemical production depends on carbonaceous feed stocks from beneath the earth’s surface and therefore will not make green fuels. Green fuels need sustainable carbon feeds found on the surface; but not corn crop, this is better suited for food. Some petrochemical derivative products are indispensable for our way of life. My activity in the past career has always been to work on technologies which make these products at the lowest cost per ton. This often translates to the lowest energy consumption and carbon footprint per ton.
What is your opinion of nuclear power? Is the waste a deal killer still?
Nuclear power should be the last option for CO2 free energy. The immense capital requirements and more than a decade long timeframe to construct a fail-safe nuclear power plant are factors prohibitive enough without even considering the well documented dangers that will lurk for generations. We should not let ourselves be lulled into feeling satisfied that nuclear power will solve the global warming crisis. Actions to mitigate global warming are needed now, not ten years from now.
What are your top three patents and why?
At least three of my patents assigned to companies I’ve worked for have been big money makers for them. But, these are not what I consider as my top patents today. Besides the recent UK patent granted for Xsorb, a few patent applications which have not yet been granted are dearer to me since they are related to mitigating CO2 emissions.
One invention in particular concerns a co-generation process scheme where natural gas is first converted to hydrogen and easily separable CO2 in a special power recovery heat exchange reactor. The CO2removed is then sequestered in depleted oil or gas reservoirs leaving only hydrogen to be combusted in gas turbines of a combined cycle power plant which generates clean power with only excess air and water vapor as flue gas.
What is the status of Xsorb? What is this supposed to do? This is a cradle to cradle technology?
Xsorb is a unique process for storing solar and/or waste heat for later use in space heating of our homes and/or commercial buildings. The idea was conceived over four years ago when I retired from the oil/gas industry. But, I must say that, it was quite a departure to shift from complex processes and giant size equipment associated with the oil /gas industry to simpler and smaller size systems required in the residential building sector. The common denominator is chemical engineering. And concentrating my acquired knowledge today to the residential renewable energy sector gives me a real good feel factor.
Xsorb process uses the principle of humidity adsorption and de-sorption on solid adsorbents to produce and store heat. During the heating season, controlled ventilation of stale humid air passing through an adsorbent bed ( EnergyStore) makes heat indirectly by heat exchange with inlet fresh air before being evacuated from a building. During the non-heating season, like summertime, solar heat or other renewable energy dries the adsorbent to restore it for winter.
The testing of various commercially available adsorbent’s properties, the collection of pertinent thermodynamic data, and correlating process operating variables of the Xsorb system have been successfully completed. Today, we possess the requisite know-how an expertise to design and engineer with an architect and builder a complete residential system. We are looking for this first reference in the Netherlands or Europe. But if we find it first in the USA, which we anyway consider the important market for any form of “cleantech”, we’d be delighted. To this end we already have a few initiatives on the east coast.
By the way, we are also developing a revolutionary air conditioning system which uses only air, no chemical refrigerants, to cool and ventilate residential buildings while making waste heat to restore the EnergyStore for winter. I’d like to talk more about this development soon.
How do you structure and support your individual innovation process?
The spark of invention for any novel idea originates from one individual mind; sometimes a few collective sparks focused on the same problem are needed to light the fire of innovation. Ideas which lead to inventions are free; but patents to protect them are not. When one works for a major company with large IP resources, money is no problem for the inventor. He assigns his invention to the company and gets notoriety, if not fame as a reward. However, when one starts on his own with an innovative idea, it’s a different ballgame.
Then there are two choices; share the idea freely for the good of everyone at little cost for himself or finance the costs for patent applications and IP protection from your own resources. In the first case, the expected reward is perhaps fame; but in the latter the expected reward is a financial return over fame.
In the case of Xsorb patent applications have been secured in the UK in 2006, extended to the USA and EU in 2007. In February of this year the UK patent was granted and we expect the US and EU to follow.
What is your view of LinkedIn.com?
I think LinkedIn is marvelous. I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you without finding and linking with you through shared group discussion. I hope to build my network and continue to contribute meaningfully to group discussions in the future.