Hey there, it’s Russell again. If you haven’t read our previous post about sending our demonstration Unit to Southern California Edison, check it out here. In the meantime, I want to follow up that post with one story I believe sheds a lot of light on the challenges of developing IcePoint™ and the approach we take to solve it.
It’s been an intense summer and fall here are Rebound, but today we hit a major milestone. The demonstration unit that the team has been developing for the past 10 months left Rebound’s lab for third party testing by SCE. This follows a strenuous internal commissioning process that pushed the system to its limits and taught us a myriad of invaluable lessons about building and operating IcePoint™.
This summer, I was lucky enough to spend 10 weeks interning in Rebound’s Denver office, soaking up as much wisdom as I could. As a tree-hugging, Mechanical Engineering Masters student looking for a challenging internship, everything about Rebound seemed to fit. I was drawn in by their focus on environmental impact, the innovative thermodynamic problem they were solving, and a company structure (read: startup) that entrusts interns with real projects. As anticipated, the experience checked all of these boxes. However, as I look back on my summer, it is the experiences I had not anticipated that feel most valuable, all of which I would have never been exposed to in school. I have attempted to package these lessons in four, bite-sized takeaways for quick and easy digestion.
At Rebound, we recently had the honor of presenting at ATMOsphere America, the largest natural refrigerant conference in the United States. This was a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to some of the biggest names in refrigeration: Danfoss, Hillpheonix, Emerson, and Zero Zone were just a few of the companies we talked to about IcePoint™. Overall, it was a great experience!
One aspect of the conference really caught our attention: the lack of young people. To illustrate this point, I want to take a slight detour. About a month ago Kevin and I were on the phone with a Director from one of the aforementioned large refrigeration companies. That company had recently visited our lab and this individual wanted to know more about what we were doing. One comment he made really stood out: “What is surprising to me is that you all are doing this and your are not even 50!” What he was getting at was not something neither Kevin nor I had given a lot of thought to, as we tend to surround ourselves with startup entrepreneurs working in other industries: Refrigeration is an industry dominated by engineers with 30+ years in the sector.
Back in August, I wrote about testing some customer hypotheses while waiting for Phase II of the NSF project to begin. Since then, we completed the MVP work and Phase II has begun.
After a few months getting the MVP reliably chilling a chest freezer in my garage, we deployed it at Whole Foods. As you’ll recall from the previous post, we wanted to use this MVP to validate our assumptions about our customers needs.
As Luke discusses in his blog post "Home Sweet Home," the Rebound team is excited about being in our own space, closer to home. And while the move from Fort Collins to the Greater Denver area was always planned, it was far more difficult to execute than originally anticipated. Why? Weed.
My dining room. My garage. Russell’s apartment. Kevin’s house. The public library. A co-work space. Several coffee shops. A park. These have been our US “offices” for the last few months as we transition from our old lab to our new home.
Our MVP is jam-packed with cloud based features that just a few years ago seemed impossible. Learn how we are using these new technologies to make low cost refrigeration safe and reliable.
Phase I of the National Science Foundation project wrapped up in January. Phase II is still an idea in a document, patiently awaiting the NSF’s green light. What’s a startup to do for six months without funding to build newer and better freeze point suppression cycles? Build an MVP of course. Don't know what an MVP is or wondering how on earth a physical tech company developing a brand new refrigeration system did it? Read on!
In my last post, I alluded to some fun (read: bang-my-head-against-the-wall) work leading up to the switch from membrane distillation (MD) with salt brines to simple column distillation with ethanol. That process led to lots of technical discovery worth sharing here.