The work of Joi Scientific Inc. continues to be shrouded in secrecy. Who are these Americans who have been present on the scene for months, but haven’t really explained what they’re doing? What does the company, which seems to have already collected millions in investor money, want to offer? A finished product or services only? Moreover, why all this secrecy? H2-international had the opportunity to interview the CEO of Joi, Traver Kennedy, to learn more about the company’s plans for 2017 and beyond.
H2-international: Mr. Kennedy, what’s the best way to start an interview where you hardly know anything about your interviewee? Maybe chronologically? Joi Scientific was founded in 2009 – with the intent to …?
Kennedy: Our mission has always been to make hydrogen an affordable fuel, available to all. As your readers well know, hydrogen is simply the best fuel in the world. When generated locally, it doesn’t create greenhouse gases or other negative environmental impacts, unlike some of the alternatives. For example, the Netherlands has been experiencing earthquakes because of natural gas extraction, which isn’t good for the environment. Consequently, the country will require 200 of its largest companies to transition to an alternative energy source within four years.
H2-international: Who was there from the start?
Kennedy: Joi Scientific’s co-founders are Robert Koeneman, our president and senior vice president of technology; James Kirchoff, our vice president of engineering; and myself, as chairman and CEO. Today, we have 27 employees.
H2-international: And what exactly did you do in the first few years?
Kennedy: Our hydrogen research was born out of a series of experiments studying hydrogen extraction techniques at room temperature and without pressure, using water as the primary feedstock for our fuel. The extraction of hydrogen from water is traditionally a very inefficient process. I can’t go into the scientific details yet, but we’ve developed an efficient way of cracking water molecules to liberate hydrogen.
H2-international: What was the reason for setting up your headquarters at the Space Life Sciences Lab of the Kennedy Space Center?
Kennedy: In 2010, I had the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to brief him on Joi Scientific’s technology and mission. Subsequently, he invited Joi Scientific to relocate to the Space Life Sciences Lab, run in partnership with NASA and Space Florida. This move has proven invaluable in furthering the development of our technology. The lab is a hub of technology innovation, with both great facilities but also an atmosphere of invention, driven by the collective of great minds that work there. Because of the area’s rich history of innovation and legacy of exploration, there’s a new, critical mass gaining serious momentum along Florida’s Space Coast, which includes SpaceX, Blue Origin and smaller companies such as ours. The energy here is akin to the early days of Silicon Valley.
H2-international: More than two years ago, in February 2016, a press release said that Joi Scientific had completed its Series A financing round to commercialize a new technology for producing hydrogen-based fuel. What was this financing round for?
Kennedy: Basically, the Series A round was primarily to take the lab-based research that we had completed and to scale up the process for industrial applications. We also wanted to attract like-minded professional investors to the company. It was good for Joi Scientific to experience their diligence on the technology, our business model and legal organization.
H2-international: Meaning this was the first step into the public arena?
Kennedy: It was part of the ongoing research and development process that is now bearing fruit.
H2-international: At that time, it seemed as if you wanted to get started right away. You had a professionally made website and an image trailer. But in the months that followed, there were hardly any reports about what you were planning. What have you been doing in the last two years?
Kennedy: I think it was Bill Gates who said …
H2-international: Let’s get to the heart of the matter. What exactly do you want to do? It’s about hydrogen production but not about electrolysis or steam reforming. What is it?
Kennedy: Correct – our approach is not electrolysis nor steam reforming. We have found a new way to extract hydrogen more efficiently than conventional processes. We’ve not yet announced the details behind our technology, but we have been and continue to be extensively vetted and verified by external evaluation groups.
H2-international: You call your concept “Hydrogen 2.0TM,” but the basic idea behind it is not that new. What is Joi doing differently than others?
Kennedy: The affordable production of clean hydrogen at the point of demand is very new. We’re calling that process Hydrogen 2.0, and it’s very innovative. Hydrogen 2.0 introduces a novel way to store hydrogen in an aqueous state at room temperature and without pressure before the hydrogen is extracted. Its on-demand and on-board nature mean that hydrogen is converted into a gas at the point of use – thus, eliminating any requirements for specialized storage and transportation. We welcome other players to join us in the new Hydrogen 2.0 era.
H2-international: Why hasn’t anyone else been successful so far?
H2-international: Mr. Sjöström, why did you decide to join Joi Scientific at this time?
Sjöström: Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, but its adoption has been limited by cost and availability. Joi Scientific has the means to break those limitations and make hydrogen available as an affordable fuel, to be generated at the point of use. Joi Scientific is a company with a technology that could have a profound impact on the world, and I am proud to be joining such an innovative organization.