Ozark IC Wins Dept. of Energy SBIR Award for Geothermal Data Logging

February 22nd, 2017 by Rebecca Norman

Ozark Integrated Circuits team

Ozark IC team

Fayetteville-based Ozark Integrated Circuits won a $155,000 Small Business Innovation Research award from the Department of Energy to provide an enhanced solution for geothermal well data collection.

Ozark IC is a fabless semiconductor company that develops integrated circuits designed to operate in extreme environmental conditions. Geothermal is an attractive, carbon-free form of energy that could meet 10% of America’s energy needs.

The Opportunity

The deeper a geothermal well, the hotter the temperature.

“Reliable data logging is needed to determine what is happening inside the well and to ensure the stability of the well. Typical electronic systems cannot operate at temperatures above 225°C without expensive thermal insulation systems – and even then, can only operate for a few hours,” said Dr. Matt Francis, CEO of Ozark IC.

The Solution

For several years, the company has been developing special electronics that will work on the 500°C Venus surface. “With this award, Ozark IC will now use its expertise and technologies to develop high-temperature data logging electronics for geothermal wells that can operate at 300-500°C for hours to years with little or no thermal insulation,” said Dr. Ian Getreu, director of business development and strategic partnerships for the company.

Ozark IC’s high-temperature data-logging electronics will offer the following commercial advantages:

Performance: The electronics can be used to extend exploration into deeper wells. By lasting much longer than existing commercial systems, it will be easier to use and maintain.

Cost: The elimination or simplification of expensive thermal insulation systems will significantly reduce the cost of data logging (as much as 50% of a unit’s cost). The much longer life at the high temperatures will require less “down time” as units will require less maintenance and less replacements.

Why Ozark IC?

Ozark IC has many years of experience in developing Silicon Carbide ultra-high temperature electronics and is a leader in this field. Evidence of this is the five contracts it has received from NASA to develop electronics suitable for the 500°C Venus surface as well as from the U.S. Air Force for the packaging of these electronics in aerospace applications (jet engines).

Commercialization Strategy
This DOE award is a significant step in Ozark IC’s strategy to commercialize its NASA-funded technology.

“The oil and geothermal exploration market is an obvious first application of this expertise and technology since the environment inside deep wells is very similar to the Venus surface environment,” said Francis.

Ozark IC has received expressions of interest in the use of its technology from companies in the oil and geothermal exploration market. Ozark IC has also extended its license to NASA’s SiC IC technology to evaluate as part of this project – recently demonstrated by NASA operating for a record 22 days in Venus surface conditions.

ASBTDC Assistance
“ASBTDC is an invaluable resource that is greatly appreciated by Ozark IC. It is the first place Ozark IC turns to for high-quality marketing assistance. What is also greatly appreciated is the fast turn-around time that it often gets since many of our needs appear at the last minute, just before the deadlines – though this is not a recommended procedure,” said Getreu.

ASBTDC, part of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business, is a recipient of special funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) partnership program and is the lead entity in promoting technology development throughout Arkansas. To learn more about SBIR/STTR funding opportunities, visit http://asbtdc.org/services/technology-commercialization.