Technology & innovation

Marchmont’s focus on innovation: Sibspark’s electrochemical generators and more

25 Mar '11
Today we’ll take a closer look at Tomsk-based Sibspark. The five-year-old company is developing an array of innovative products from an electrochemical generator that runs on all currently available fuels to the development of the world’s fastest instrument to rate steel and nonferrous metals grades and micro-plasma, nano-textured metal coatings. With future markets as diverse as utilities, transport, cell phone communications or mechanical engineering Sibspark is a company to watch.

Set up in 2006, Sibspark has been a resident of the Tomsk special economic zone (SEZ) since 2008. Its first project involved the development and production of micro plasma nano-textured non-metal coatings, drawing upon Tomsk’s skilled cadre of university-based engineers and researchers.

Then it moved into advanced generator technology, designing an electrochemical generator that runs on all currently available fuels—hydrocarbons, any organic compounds, or even metals. The innovativeness of the technology is ability to turn chemical properties (active valence-based reactions) of an element into electrical power. As a chemical-based source of energy the generator can also use as reagents gaseous or liquid matters.

All fuels generator prototype in 2012

CEO Anatoly Mamaev announced earlier this week the firm would produce a working prototype of the generator in 2012. As the project takes shape, Sibspark reportedly expects to enter an agreement with some partner to set up a JV later on and start serial production.

According to Mr. Mamaev, the technology converts chemical energy into electricity. In addition to its ‘fuel pantophagy,’ it’s operationally safe, handy, and far less costly than its conventional analogs, the CEO emphasized.

The applications range from powering everything from residential dwellings to hybrid vehicles as well as charging cell phones or even supplying power to military facilities, he added. The cost and capacity of the future generator can be tailored to the specific needs of the sectors that will use it. Depending on end use, the actual generator will vary in size from micro-units to full-sized power generating stations.

One-fiftieth of a second vs. five minutes

Another avenue of exploration Sibspark is working on has the potential to revolutionize the global precision instrument market. The sophisticated instrument is designed to inspect incoming and outgoing blanks and end products at mechanical engineering factories “hundreds of times faster” than currently used instruments.

As with the company’s electrochemical generator, a working prototype is expected next year, CEO Mamaev said. Sibspark will then look for partners and investors to initiate demand-based serial production.

The innovative instrument is reportedly easy-to-use and safe (no X-ray involved), requires no manual preparation of samples for inspection, and will be capable of rating steel and nonferrous metals grades within one-fiftieth of a second—in sharp contrast to all other existing instruments that Mr. Mamaev asserts may take five or more minutes to do the job.

Cost benefits issues?

Some skeptics are concerned that in a race for operational speed, rating precision might be compromised; others doubt the pricing of future instruments will be competitive enough for customers to line up en masse.

Sibspark counters the worries; first, it says it knows no matching technology elsewhere across the globe and second, it believes it can sell the product at a competitive price.

RF extends support of SEZ’s

In the wake of the RF’s recent move to extend Russia’s SEZ program beyond its current 20-year limit Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress called on March 15 for a 35-to-50-year extension and an increase in funding and tax cuts. He underscored that currently, SEZ’s are still the only framework that legitimately provides low rent and other preferential treatment for start-up and early stage expansion innovation companies. Russia has reportedly injected $987m in Russia’s 24 special economic zones thus far; another $610m has been earmarked for this year.
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Locations: Tomsk

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