Key hire spells new growth phase for heat recovery start-up Alphabet Energy

At the start of 2011 when many of you were still on holiday, I visited the web site for start-up Alphabet Energy, because I figured the company must be ready to come out of stealth mode. Turns out I was only a few weeks early: Alphabet has just named a new vice president of process and manufacturing, Sylvain Muckenhirn, to ramp up its prototype products.

At the start of 2011 when many of you were still on holiday, I visited the web site for start-up Alphabet Energy, because I figured the company must be ready to come out of stealth mode. Turns out I was only a few weeks early: Alphabet has just named a new vice president of process and manufacturing, Sylvain Muckenhirn, to ramp up its prototype products.

As I wrote in mid-2010, Alphabet Energy, now based in new San Francisco digs, is developing technologies that turn recovered waste heat into energy and electricity. Its approach uses thermoelectric materials, which are semiconductors that can generate electricity in a solid state. No moving parts involved. The components work by taking heat out of a process and feeding it back in as electricity. At least that's the theory. Applications might include metals refining, cement and glass production, automotive manufacturing, aerospace technologies. Any place where a process creates serious heat that could be "recycled" as it were into new energy.

Muckenhirn's resume include a stint at Advanced SAW Products, which was ultimately acquired by Nokia, as well as start-ups including Nanoraptor and SAWCOM. He most recently was a consultant. His responsibilities will include designing Alphabet Energy's development and production capacity. The company's first delivery targets are in 2012 and 2013.