San Diego’s bluetech cluster is a sub-sector of the larger, broader local “Blue Economy,” which accounts for more than 1,400 companies, supporting 46,000 jobs, and generating $14 billion in direct sales. President and CEO, Yi Chao, contributes to this with his company, Seatrec, which recently relocated to Vista from Los Angeles. Seatrec designs technology used to convert temperature differences in the ocean into electricity. Other applications include oceanic robotics, ocean energy stations, and polar environmental research.
Yi grew up in China and was introduced to the STEM field at a young age. He received his bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Physics at a highly selective science and technology university. Soon after, he applied to graduate schools all over the U.S., ultimately attending Princeton and receiving his Ph,D, in Oceanography. Yi employed his background in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at NASA, where he worked with computer modeling used to develop the first satellite to measure salinity (the saltiness or amount of salt dissolved in a body of water) from space.
While working in underwater robotics at JPL, Yi discovered that in order for underwater robots to be active in the ocean, they require consistent energy. He understood that this could not be achieved manually and worked to develop an ocean-powered technology with which robots charge themselves and automatically recognize varying water temperatures. This data would then be sent to command centers for further research and analysis.
Seatrec is currently used primarily by researchers and academic institutions, but in the near future, Yi hopes to expand the technology for commercial uses. Listen in to hear more about Yi and Seatrec’s mission to harness and create sustainable energy for current and future generations
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