Advanced Magnet Lab Rebrands and Reaches New Markets
By Carl Kotala
In the process of transitioning from a research and development company into commercialization markets, Advanced Magnet Lab has recently undergone a series of changes.
To start with, the business is now known as AML Superconductivity and Magnetics. It also has a spectacular new website that is colorful, informative and inspirational. However, that’s not all the company has done to rebrand itself.
“We have validated our technology development process,” AML President Mark Senti said. Recognized as a leader in the application of superconductivity and magnets, AML’s technologies enable transformational solutions in a wide swath of industries, including energy, aerospace, medicine and the environment. “These game-changing applications include offshore wind turbine generators which lower the cost of producing energy, large industrial motors achieving 99 percent efficiency, turbo-electric propulsion for all-electric aircraft and medical cancer treatment.
“Our technology is very fundamental,” Senti said. “It’s analogous to the ‘Intel Inside’ slogan expressing the role of Intel’s microprocessors in driving the world’s computing devices, AML’s advanced magnet systems can now be considered the heart of a revolutionary new class of integrated products.
“At the core, like the microprocessor, are our technologies, unique know-how and experience, which revolutionize the application of materials such as copper or superconductors that are enabling new applications such as large-scale energy storage or transformational solutions like all-electric commercial aircraft.”
In May 2014, AML and Argonne National Laboratory announced, “one of the world’s most sophisticated superconducting magnet systems passed a landmark reliability test that demonstrates its suitability for wide-scale commercial application.” The test, which was performed at National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, gave AML the kind of validation that can have a tremendous impact on its ability to extend its commercial reach into a multitude of world markets.
The test not only validated the purity of the magnetic field being created by AML, but also its complexity. While other companies using different technology have to build individual magnets with certain magnetic fields, AML is able to combine a number of different types of magnetic fields all in one magnet.
What also stood out in the test is that the AML magnets can be plugged in and turned on just like you would plug in a new light bulb.
“If you’re not in the industry, you might say, ‘Well, why is that so special?’” Vernon Prince, AML’s vice president of development, said. “Superconducting magnets historically have been built so that it takes them several cycles to get them to their maximum power. Based on our patented manufacturing methods and on the way we design magnets, we don’t fall into that category. Our magnets are basically plug and play. The test validated that as well.
“All of those aspects are very critical for commercialization. If you’re going to commercialize superconducting magnets for an all-electric aircraft, you don’t want to spend a day trying to power up that engine and get it ready for flight. You want to be able to turn it on and go.”
What helps set AML apart from other companies is that it offers a complete end-to-end capability called the Perfect Field Application Development Process, which is the culmination of 20 years of work.
Rather than taking an existing solution to drive the application, AML is able to take the required field shape independent of anything else and configure the winding of the coil in 3D space to give the customer that field. It’s all part of a five-step, Perfect-FieldTM Application Development Process that is completely unique to what anyone else is or has done since magnetism was first invented in the mid 1800s.
“That’s at the core of our technology; the process which brings magnetics and superconductivity into the 21st century,” Senti said. “You combine those processes, those steps – it’s software, it’s magnet technologies, it’s optimization and manufacturing. Even the way we manufacture allows us to do things you could never do before in terms of these applications – you combine that with the knowledge, expertise, trade secrets and then layer on top of that all of our collaboration partners, which are world-class partners all supporting our applications; that’s the value we bring.
“Our business model takes those technologies, creates product platforms like rotating machines, gets it to a point where you demonstrate the platform and then license it to a specific application. So Company A, you want large motors? Go ahead. Company B, you want synchronized condensers? Company C, you want offshore wind turbines? Company D, you want propulsion? Company E, you want ship propulsion? Company F, you want magnetic separation for treating water? And on and on. It’s all based on these capabilities.”
AML’s Success Stories
It’s exactly those capabilities that have helped AML come up with what could be a solution for one of NASA’s biggest technical challenges – radiation shielding that would allow humans to travel deep into space. That project is still in the works, but it could be the first real promise to solve that problem.
It would also add to the latest success stories for AML, which recently beat out companies like General Electric, Eaton Corporation and Clipper Windpower for funding by the Department of Energy for next-generation drivetrains for large wind turbines.
AML is also a major partner in a $20 million joint venture in Chile with the sustainability-focused social impact foundation Avina and the Advanced Innovation Center-Chile (AIC). The Impact Innovation Alliance could also help accelerate the global commercialization of superconductivity for energy and the environment.
With all that happening, it’s no wonder AML was selected from a pool of approximately 600 applicants to be one of this year’s 50 Florida Companies to Watch through GrowFL.
“In terms of the larger applications, like large wind, large motors, hydro-power generation and aerospace, first of all, they’re global markets,” Senti said. “It’s a big boy’s game. This is like going to the moon. By spending the time to develop these partnerships and for over 20 years developing this technology and getting it to the point where now the rest of the world can validate it, that now opens up this menu of significant intellectual property and proficiency to the world.”
He continued, “We as a company can’t just look locally, even though we’re on the Space Coast. We can’t look regionally. We can’t even look here in the U.S. We have to look where there’s the most motivation, desire and money to get this technology further along in terms of commercialization.
“It costs a lot of money to demonstrate a large machine like this. That’s been our challenge, but we’re finally over the hump of validation now. The world sees that we have the ticket. This next phase of our business is aligning our product platforms with large strategic partners who have the will and capacity to penetrate the market.”