Joi Scientific, a Melbourne, Fla.-based company that says it can generate hydrogen gas from seawater, has been unable to live up to promises it earlier made to investors, according to a report by the CBC News. Investors including MarineMax, GoPro founder Dean Woodman and Canada’s NB Power have invested millions in the startup.
Attempts to reach Joi Technologies via email were unsuccessful, and phone calls either went unanswered or went to disconnected numbers for media contacts on its website.
One of Joi Scientific’s patents says that it can generate hydrogen at 200 percent efficiency from salt water. For 1 watt of input energy, the patent says that 2 watts of energy in the form of hydrogen gas are produced.
"We've seen results indicating, clearly indicating, independently witnessed, that it does produce more energy," a Joi executive told CBC News in May.
Joi Scientific CEO Traver Kennedy told shareholders last summer that the company had made mistakes in its calculations. "The results have been both consistent and disappointing," Kennedy said in a conference call. "We've come to learn that the power measurements coming into our circuitry and going all the way back to the wall fundamentally show our current Hydrogen 2.0 technology has poor system efficiencies."
Kennedy said on the May call that the company was in "low cash" and only had funding until the end of August. "We're now seeking new funding based upon our new understanding of the system efficiency, realizing that it will have a significant impact on the company's valuation," he said.
The CBC spoke with a former Joi Scientific employee who said that the efficiency of the technology was far below what the company’s founders had forecast. The employee said that “at best,” Joi could report 20 percent efficiency. "If you speak to any chemist worth their salt, they'll know that hydrogen from seawater is going to be very, very difficult," the former employee told the website.
The CBC said it tried to reach Joi Scientific for weeks, without success.
Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external relations for Space Florida, made no comment to the Orlando Sentinel for its story on Joi Scientific, except that Joi Scientific still has a small presence at the Space Life Sciences Lab in Melbourne.
Vicky Harris, vice president of marketing for Joi Scientific, said in an email to the CBC that it is “continuing to work on our seawater-based hydrogen technology in co-operation with our licensees, including NB Power.” Harris later wrote: "We are unable to discuss our technology due to non-disclosure agreements."
MarineMax said in an email to Trade Only Today that it “remains supportive” of the potential of the hydrogen technologies that Joi continues to pursue. “Support of such scientific efforts is how game-changing progress is made in spite of the inevitable criticisms experienced along the way,” Abbey Heimensen, MarineMax director of marketing, said in the email. “MarineMax is doing its small part to help move water-related, energy technologies forward as part of our commitment to environmental stewardship and healthy oceans.”