Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) met with a few start-up scientific companies based in Monmouth Junction during a public forum Thursday afternoon to discuss how to create jobs with their ideas.
Among the companies present was Liquid Light Inc., which develops systems for the energy efficient conversion of carbon dioxide into liquid fuels using light to drive the reaction.
“The idea of using light to efficiently make transportation fuels captures our attention these days,” said Holt, who toured the company’s laboratory and office space before the forum. “Liquid Light is going to be useful (for creating) clean, alternative fuels that don’t contribute to climate change.”
Holt, the former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University, asked the researchers at Liquid Light about their electrochemical process, which began in Princeton professor Andrew Bocarsly’s chemistry laboratory.
“This is an important achievement we’ve been working on for a long time,” Bocarsly said. “It has use for something pragmatic and we’ve had an exciting result.”
Liquid Light consists of five employees, including co-founder and researcher Emily Cole, who worked on the process for her thesis in Bocarsly’s lab. After earning her PhD from Princeton, in October 2009, she began the company.
“It’s very interesting, there haven’t been many reports of using multi-carbon (structures) for fuel,” she said.
Cole said Liquid Light’s fuel could replace gasoline and be used in the pharmaceutical and plastic industries. Though the company’s small staff’s salaries are funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and a venture capitalism firm, Redpoint Ventures, it aims to double its staff.
But there are a few obstacles in the way of the company’s success, including pending patents and the state of the economy, said Kyle Teamey, co-founder and COO of Liquid Light.
“It’s taking four years to get a patent looked at in the United States,” he said. “We need the patent in hand, that’s the value.”
Other companies present at the forum included the Nanonex Corporation, which manufactures nano-technological products, and Signum Biosciences, which works with the lead molecule in a drug that treats Alzheimer’s disease. Holt asked the entrepreneurs from Liquid Light and the other companies what the business climate in New Jersey is like.
“New Jersey would be in the bottom two on my list of places to conduct business,” Teamey said. “It has high taxes and high regulatory practices. We’re being nickeled and dimed on individual taxes.”
But Teamey is appreciative of the relationship his company has with Princeton University, which is a resource to Liquid Light.
“Princeton plays an incubation role for our company," he said. "It’s a great collaborative approach. We use their equipment and there is conversation between their researchers and our researchers.”
Holt said he is, and will continue to be, in conversation with the state about the benefits of investing in these companies, but he admits it is frustrating as large corporations are preventing them from creating jobs.
“Congress voted for continued massive giveaways to big oil companies,” he said. “Five companies have the profit of $32 billion and none of that is going into developing research or oil exploration. It’s going to buy back stock and that drives me up a wall.”