Creating eco-friendly energy conversion technologies and perfect ground coffee.
Dmitry Smirnov, MSc 2015 and PhD 2019 | Thermal Motors LLC, Co-Founder and General Director
Meet Dmitry Smirnov, co-founder and General Director of Thermal Motors LLC, Skoltech MSc and PhD alumnus. Dmitry graduated from Skoltech's Space and Engineering Master's program in 2015. Since his studies, he has been working on developing a cryogenic technology and co-founded a startup Thermal Motors LLC together with his classmates from St.Petersburg Polytech. Lucky for us, Dmitry is not only working on a high goal to bring eco-friendly energy conversion technologies into society, but he's also actively working on bringing the best taste of coffee into our mornings. Enjoy his story!
my Skoltech journey
I come from Rybinsk — a city with a fascinating mix of traditions in entrepreneurship and building energy machines. Before the Russian Revolution of 1917, part of my family was involved in entrepreneurial activities in food and pharmacy. Three generations of my family before me designed and built energy machines like gas turbines or jet engines. Not surprisingly, I completed my undergraduate studies in St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, specializing in energy conversion machines' design.

I learned about Skoltech from a visiting representative in 2011. At the time, I was interested in learning how to commercialize science-intensive energy technologies. I believed that a combination of experimental work and the entrepreneurial effort to find a practical application was missing around me, and I wanted to learn more about it myself. The vision of Skoltech in the presentation has inspired me because it promised an international environment that can unleash the power of open minds and freethinking to conceive, design, built and implement technological and scientific breakthroughs into useful products and services.

Space and Engineering Systems
This program combines study of the general principles of complex engineering system construction with participation in satellite, drone and robotic systems-building projects. The program is also aimed to provide the fundamental skills in data analysis for the development of complex system applications fostering the synergies and interdependencies between engineering, industry and space science (satellite imagery and communications, satellite navigation, remote sensing and in-situ data of space weather). We teach students to find creative solutions to the biggest challenges of space and robotics industries. Learn more.
Skoltech's influence on my career perspectives
Skoltech was not a typical scientific institute. The first impression from the education process of Skoltech was that it was an emersion in a multidimensional project-based work. Technology, science, commercialization and teamwork were interwoven in one complex educational process. The quality of learning that emerged from this process was different from a typical science- or engineering-oriented school. Another important aspect is teamwork. I learned about communication with teammates through challenging situations and complex projects only in Skoltech. I also immensely enjoyed the short distance between professors and students. We could go to dinners together, discuss topics beyond the curriculum. This made me feel that I am not a student "on a beltline" soon to be churned out into life, but an individual with the potential to create good things.
сurrent projects and crowdfunding
I am self-employed now. I am actively working on developing a cryogenic technology with my business fellows in St.Petersburg at a startup Thermal Motors LLC and collaborate with professor Henni Ouerdane from the Skoltech Center for Energy Science and Technology in this direction. This cryosystem works from electricity without liquid nitrogen and employs no greenhouse gas refrigerants. Ultralow temperature technologies become more and more relevant because many science-intensive products need very low temperatures to operate. Take, for example, the recent shortage of low-temperature cooling technologies to transport the COVID vaccine.

Another project, "Ground" (formerly "Coffeehouse Seneca"), is related to the application of this cryogenic system in the FoodTech. The application of ultralow temperatures during the grinding process of coffee beans allows preserving coffee oils and healthy microelements inside micropores of ground particles. This significantly improves the aroma, flavor and overall quality of ground coffee. In Russia, for example, more than 30% of coffee lovers buy ground coffee. And we try to make the best ground coffee for them.

Also, I spend some time working on research in the field of technology innovation and management. I collaborate with Prof. Kelvin Willoughby from Skoltech. This helps me to stay up-to-date with recent trends, research in the field, and simply be better in what I am doing.

aspirations for the future
I want to keep working on the integration of smart and eco-friendly energy conversion technologies into society. We are currently in the middle of the energy transition to a low hydrocarbon and circular economy. And I believe this work is essential. Besides, I am fascinated by the theoretical aspects of technology management. So, I aspire to combine both practical work and academic research in technology management and entrepreneurship.
and now about Skoltech
We are Skoltech – a new international English-speaking STEM university that was founded by the group of world-renowned scientists in 2011 in Moscow, Russia. In just 8 years, we united dozens of researchers and globally renowned professors, built a stunning campus, set up world-class labs and made it to the top 100 young universities in the Nature Index. Read more >>
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