The upshot for 2013? It could be a big year for breakthrough energy. The vast majority of the companies--actually all but one--are related to energy from a grid storage startup and electric vehicle company to an energy electronics firm and oil exploration and production company.
The research firm profiled 1,380 companies across 15 emerging technology domains this year. The company's analysts rated each firm on a 10-metric scorecard and provided a bottom-line assessment of each startup's prospects ranging from "strong caution" to "strong positive."
10 companies to watch in 2013
1. Beta Renewables: A bio-based materials and chemicals company. Lux Research gives Beta Renewables a "positive" rating and said all eyes will be on its commercial cellulosic ethanol facility in Italy.
2. Materials Innovation Technology: The advanced materials company makes carbon fiber parts for lightweight vehicles from recycled materials. Carbon fiber can reduce the weight of a vehicle and lower emissions and fuel consumption, but it's difficult to recycle. Automakers have shown great interest in finding ways to recycle carbon fiber.
3. N-Solv: The company has developed technology that uses warm solvent to extract bitumen from oil sand deposits. N-Solv says its tech uses 85 percent less energy than steam-assisted gravity drainage, another common technique for extracting bitumen from oil sands.
4. Imprint Energy: The company has developed a zinc-based flexible battery for electronics. (see photo) Lux gives it a "positive" rating and says it has a credible roadmap for lower cost and higher performance than competitive thin-film battery technologies.
5. Phosphagenics: Lux gives the biotechnology company a "strong positive" rating and says it's the first serious pharma product slated to enter pivotal trials next year.
6. Azzurro Semiconductors: This semiconductor company has been an early innovator in gallium nitride on silicon substrates, called GaN-on-Si, which are used to make LEDs. The company, which was given a "positive" rating has started industrial-scale manufacturing of six-inch diameter wafers that can boost the efficiency of both LEDs and power electronics, Lux said.
7. Enbala Power Networks: This grid optimization company was given a "wait-and-see" rating. The company has developed a network that manages the way electrical equipment uses power without impacting the efficiency of its process or its operational costs.
8. Boulder Ionics: The company, which was given a "wait-and-see" rating has developed ionic liquids designed to enhance performance in both batteries and supercapacitors. According to Lux, 2013 will be critical to monitor whether Boulder's low-cost solution lives up to the hype.
9. Silevo: The Silicon Valley-based company is a solar cell and photvoltaic solar module manufacturer that will electroplated copper contacts and a thin amorphous silicon layer on its crystalline silicon cells. The company, which was given a "positive" rating, has a module efficiency of 17.8 percent and viable path to higher efficiency at competitive costs, Lux said. Once it scales production, Silevo could compete with the likes of SunPower, according to Lux.
10: Desalitech: The water desalination company says it improves the efficiency of reverse osmosis desalination by lowering membrane feed pressure, eliminating the need for energy-recovery devices and improving water recovery. The company, which was given a "wait-and-see" rating, would benefit from a second funding round effort in 2013, Lux said.
Photo: Imprint Energy