Oneonta, N.Y. – A small start-up company in Upstate New York is rapidly expanding as it works to meet demand for a new type of energy storage. And to meet demand, the former National Soccer Hall of Fame has been replaced with a factory.
There are still playing fields outside the shuttered soccer hall of fame in Oneonta, though they're frequented more often by geese than kids these days. That's about the only reminder the hall of fame once sat here. Inside, the exhibits have been replaced with whirling machines.
"So this is the beginning of the process," says Mark McGough as we walk into the production floor. "What we do here is we mix a special slurry, you might call it our secret sauce."
McGough is CEO of the building's new tenant, Ioxus. Ioxus is the only company in North America making energy storage devices known as ultracapacitors from start to finish.
They moved into the old hall of fame this summer and the bigger facility has allowed Ioxus to more than triple production - and its workforce, now in the mid 60's - along with it.
But what's an ultracapacitor? They look - and do similar tasks - as a battery, but McGough is quick to point out that they're not a battery. In fact, it's a completely different technology.
"These are trays full of a black slurry about the thickness of Elmer's glue," McGough says, pointing to yet another machine. "And we very carefully deposit that slurry on aluminum foil here."
The foil is then cut and rolled before being put into a casing.
Ultracaps are widely used in wind turbines to move and angle the blades.
But there's a new use for the device that could soon have ultracapacitors sitting in your driveway. They're the power source behind start-stop technology in automotives. The cells are able to restart an engine quickly after a car comes to a stop. Eliminating idling can boost fuel efficiency 10-15%. That's a big increase as automakers work to double mileage under the government's new requirements.
Ioxus produces cells as small as a salt shaker to as big as a 16 ounce can of beer. But on this day, they're rolling out the size in the middle, one about the size a D battery. But don't let the size fool you, they pack a lot more punch.
"These have about 10-100x the power of typical battery," McGough says. "The catch is they don't store as much energy as a battery."
But the plus side is they recharge at a much higher speed than a battery, and can do it up to a million times.
Each ultracap is run through a tester before being boxed up and shipped. About 2,000 cells come off the floor each day. Most are going overseas, but demand in the US is increasing.
Back in his office, McGough talks about how Upstate New Yorkers have been able to fill almost all the company's ranks.
"It's actually been able to fill our needs for production workers quite nicely. Where we've had to go outside the area is for some of the specialty scientists. By the way, there are some great schools in New York, all of which we've drawn talent from," McGough said.
Ioxus will continue to hire until its workforce is in the triple digits, according to McGough. And even though they just moved into a new building, he's already eyeing an expansion.