In the lab of UW–Madison engineering Professor Dawei Feng, PhD student Patrick Sullivan and postdoc researcher Xiuliang Lyu, started conducting applied research with one primary goal: to create a real impact and improve society on the whole. The team began by identifying a problem within the current methods used to store energy. They found that the inefficient use and storage of energy can be associated with the today’s most pressing problems across nearly every area, from health to geopolitics. Sullivan focused their research efforts on making grid energy storage both more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly. This led to Flux XII, a new flow battery that relies on dissolving organic salts in water to create sustainable grid energy storage technology.
With the help of D2P’s resources and the mentorship of Amar Anumakonda, Flux XII’s technology outperforms all existing methods and can be used for utility and independent project developers in need of economical and reliable clean energy. “Patrick is doing a great job leading the charge on the commercialization front for Flux XII LLC,” Anumakonda states. “The uniqueness of their technology in combination with the imminent market need for electricity storage both as distributed and grid-connected systems promises a strong future for Flus XII LLC.” Sullivan hopes to solidify the innovation as a long-term entity that can influence energy, science, and education. Flux XII will ultimately enhance global energy sustainability by reducing of carbon emissions and improving energy resilience.
We asked Patrick Sullivan to speak on his experience with the technology, research, and entrepreneurship behind Flux XII:
Where did the idea for your company come from initially?
My research team was always keen on conducting applied research, wanting our innovations to have a tangible impact on improving society. We realized that grid energy storage was an emerging market where current players needed to do a better job and we could leverage our expertise. Our lab then had a breakthrough in developing new flow battery chemistries based on organic salts dissolved in benign water with enhanced performance over existing technologies. With the support of WARF for funding and IP, we were encouraged to explore commercialization of our technology.
What are your hopes for the company moving forward?
I hope to build a long-term entity that can positively disrupt society’s most essential systems, including energy, science, and education. Our first target is to enhance global energy sustainability and security with our grid battery technology by reducing carbon emissions, improving energy resilience, and forming a domestic battery supply chain.
What drives you/why is this project important to you personally?
Our irresponsible use of energy is, directly and indirectly, the cause of many of our world’s most pressing problems, spanning geopolitics, supply chains, health, and climate change. I hope to support a more sustainable and equitable future for society through technology.
How has D2P helped you, and what have you learned?
D2P has been an instrumental launchpad to begin exploring the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They’ve trained me in business, networking, and team management principles that I would have never been exposed to as a chemist. They’ve shown me how to leverage my existing skills and knowledge to become a unique entrepreneur.
What other entrepreneurial resources/programs have guided you?
WARF, Wisconsin Technology Council, NSF I-Corp, College of Engineering Technology Entrepreneurial
Office, Center for Technology Commercialization, The Engine: Blueprint, Activate Anywhere
What’s your current focus with the company?
I have just begun my journey as full-time CEO and am working with my team this summer to map out our near-term and long-term vision. After this, my first primary focus is to continue to network for eventual equity investment and explore top talent to become part of our core team.
What advice would you give to other campus innovators that are just starting with exploring the potential for their ideas?
Take risks. Here’s a quote from a Rock ‘n Roll famer that sums up the entrepreneurial spirit: “I’ll do what I can to create as much chaos as I possibly can, but my chaos is always well-natured or has a positive goal at the end of it. When I start causing chaos in a situation it’s because the situation needed to be changed.” – Joe Strummer
How do you balance the time you need to spend on your project with other work and life responsibilities?
This is very difficult. The only way to balance this has been to share the load with my founding team and to have the guidance of entrepreneur mentors, both of whom I am lucky to have. However, I truly enjoy working towards my passion every day, even if challenging. Spending time mentally decoupling startup success from personal success has also been helpful. I have decided to define personal success of learning new things, whether it be about science, business, team management, government, etc., and frequently, failure is the best tool to learn. Thus, even when things do not go according to plan in the startup world, which will happen, I can still retain a positive mindset if my team and I learn from our mistakes.