Cogent Energy Systems

Cogent Energy Systems

Large waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities have existed for decades, but technology that allows for economic recovery of energy from waste on a small scale has remained elusive. Founded in 2012, Cogent Energy Systems has been developing a process to do that.

The story starts at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and research being conducted on the creation of nanoparticles. Specifically, it was this modular hybrid plasma technology that evolved into the core of a gasifier for WTE applications. Through discussion with the inventor, Dr. Peter Kong, Cogent’s officers concluded that the same concept could be applied to gasifying waste materials for energy recovery applications, turning biomass or virtually any waste into usable products at a small scale.

The resulting proprietary ionic gasification process—embodied in Cogent’s HelioStorm Gasifier—involves the direct-contact processing of waste inside an active plasma field at temperatures of 3,000 to 10,000 degrees Celsius. The result is a clean, high-energy synthesis gas (or “syngas”) that can be used to make many valuable end products, including electricity, hydrogen, liquid fuels, and chemical precursors.

Founded in 2012, Cogent Energy Systems of Merrifield, Virginia, was the recipient of the transferred technology. The company’s technology development takes place in Idaho Falls, Idaho, near INL, where the modular hybrid plasma technology at the heart of its HelioStorm Gasifier originated. Since its founding, the company has been awarded a succession of grants from the Department of Energy (DOE), INL, the U.S. Navy, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In partnership with these organizations and Creare, an engineering research and development firm in Hanover, New Hampshire, Cogent has developed and demonstrated two full-scale waste-to-energy gasifiers, with plans for a complete end-to-end commercial demonstration system scheduled to come online by 2019.

In order to reserve rights in the INL modular hybrid plasma technology while conducting due diligence, Cogent executed a license option agreement with INL in 2012. The option to license the technology was exercised by Cogent two years later in 2014. INL stands ready to help Cogent leverage DOE programs and assets to achieve commercial success. In the relationship with Cogent, INL has taken the approach that a successful technology transfer requires a sustained effort that does not end with execution of the license agreement.

Contact: Dr. Peter Kong, (202) 640-2558,

Award Year: 
Far West