Research Foundation News

November 20, 2019

Reimagined thermionic energy technology to help reduce electricity costs

Atlas converter Atlas Energy Systems, a Purdue University-affiliated startup, has built and tested standalone, combustion-fired thermionic converters. (Image provided) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Energy technology can be costly and inconvenient for commercial usage due to operational expenses. Atlas Energy Systems, a Purdue University-affiliated startup, is working to create a more robust form of energy technology.

Ian Hamilton, CEO of Atlas, says he took note of the need for change within the energy industry during his time as a student in Purdue’s College of Engineering. He began to reanalyze thermionic energy conversion technology that was used by NASA in the 1950s and 1960s. From there, he used his knowledge and skills gained from the Purdue Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program to begin developing his own business based on rethinking energy.

“Our team created a thermionic energy convertor to be more efficient and a fraction of the cost of similar past technologies,” said Hamilton, who was previously selected by Forbes magazine for its annual “30 Under 30” list of outstanding researchers.

The energy convertor creates electricity from heat with no moving parts involved in the process. Hamilton said the absence of moving parts created a more solid, robust and long-lasting technology. He wants to commercialize the product as an alternative to in-home energy generators.

“The heart of it has its potential to be a platform technology used anywhere and everywhere,” Hamilton said.

The Atlas team hopes to expand this concept into other forms of energy generation solutions that will grow the company into a large-scale energy technology developer.

Atlas continues to connect with alumni through the Purdue Foundry and is looking for partners.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. The Foundry staff helps train innovators to transform their groundbreaking ideas into world-changing businesses. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was co-named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. To learn more, contact the Foundry at

About the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program

The Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program is the hub for cross-campus entrepreneurship education at Purdue University. Started in 2005, it is one of the largest multi-disciplinary entrepreneurship programs in the country, serving approximately 1,800 students each year. Housed in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and administered through Purdue’s Office of the Provost, the program empowers students in all academic disciplines to turn their innovative ideas into action. Learn more at

Writer: Ashley Fritz, 765-588-1065,

Purdue Research Foundation Contact: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, 

Source: Ian Hamilton,

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