Millennium Cell

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These stories were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 28, 1998. All rights reserved.

Life in the Fast Lane

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Millennium Cell

Last month the chemical R&D firm Millennium Cell received a patent for a boro-hydride battery. This aqueous, "green" cell would have a significantly longer life than the current design and could represent a large step forward in the effort to develop electric cars. Formerly National Patent Development Co., Millennium Cell is owned by GP Strategies, the same company that owns Hydro Med Sciences (see page 45), with which it shares space at Cedarbrook Drive. The firm employs four people there plus two that do machine work at another site.

"The discharge in our battery would be the same as you find in household detergent, like Borax," says Mike Binder, a senior scientist with the firm. "Once the battery is discharged you could pour it down the drain. It would be a green car battery. And we're expecting that it will have three to four times the range of current batteries -- probably 400 to 500 miles."

"Before the end of 1999 we want to develop our technology for licensing," says Steven Amendola, vice president for research, "to make an prototype of an electric sport utility vehicle that will break the stereotype that an electric car looks like a golf cart."

"Because the energy is in the liquid you simply put in new liquid and are on your way again for another 200 miles," says Amendola, who went to Kings College in New York, Class of 1978, and did graduate work in chemistry at Ohio State. He worked in research process development for a Union Carbide spinoff, started a company to exploit coal liquification, and has been working with other alternative energy schemes at GP Strategies for three years.

The neighborhood gas station or a home recharger would take care of recycling the 25 gallons of battery liquid contained in a "bladder" inside the steel fuel tank in the rear of the car. "When you go to refuel, the pressure of the new fuel will push the old fuel into a recovery tank. The consumer would never see a drop of the liquid."

The sodium boro hydride is somewhat corrosive, but it is water based, and Amendola says it is safer, overall, than gasoline, which is flammable and toxic. It is less expensive than the most popular fuel for electric cars now, the nickel metal hydride battery.

"I don't feel the requirement for what we are doing is any more onerous than what's required for anything else. Recharging with electricity takes a long time," says Amendola, "and some areas have trouble just providing enough electricity for air conditioners. You would actually have to rewire New York City to have enough copper going to everybody's houses to handle that demand.

"Our aim," says Binder, "is to power up a large RV, drive it down to Washington, park it in front of the White House and say, `See, we've solved some of the pollution problem.'"

Millennium Cell Co., 8 Cedarbrook Drive, Cranbury 08512. Steven Amendola, VP, research. 609-409-9010; fax, 609-409-1650.

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More Hydrogels

Derma Sciences acquired Genetic Labs in Minneapolis in September, and another acquisition may be on the way. Derma Sciences moved to the Carnegie Center office of Edward Quilty a year ago and Quilty is now chairman and CEO of this firm as well as of Palatine Technologies.

Dermagran Zinc-Saline Hydrogel Wound Dressing, the firm's amorphous hydrogel dressing for chronic wounds, is dispensed from a tube and is primarily for the use of medical professionals. Derma Sciences also has a "marsupial pouch" for women coping with temporary drains following surgery, plus 15 more products in five categories, available online.

"Our methods patent is held on a two-step process, with a combination of zinc and other nutrients rendered in a specific pH range," says Richard S. Mink, chief operating officer. "The prevalent application is for chronic wounds."

This "small company getting big" went public more than four years ago and has stock that sells for about $1 on Nasdaq (DSCI).

Until a month ago, Quilty kept a fairly low profile with this hydrogel firm. His previous wound care experience was with Life Medical Sciences, now MedChem, which he managed to sell to C.R. Bard. The investors in Derma Science, founded by a registered nurse named Mary Clark in Scranton, Pennsylvania, probably hope he will do the same for them.

Derma Sciences, 214 Carnegie Center, Suite 100, Princeton 08540. Edward Quilty, president and CEO. 609-514-4744; fax, 609-514-0502. Home page:

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