Revving Up: Alumni Q&A with Julie Blumreiter
Hometown: Batavia, IL
Current City: Greater Chicago Area
Current Position: Co-founder and CTO of ClearFlame Engine Technologies
Q: Can you describe your current role at ClearFlame Engine Technologies?
I am the co-founder and CTO of ClearFlame Engine Technologies, a startup company dedicated to decarbonizing difficult-to-electrify sectors like long haul trucking, construction, agriculture, etc. I am passionate about taking an unconventional/surprising approach to cleaning up transportation, that works within existing infrastructure and the knowledge base of mechanics, maintenance personnel, and advanced manufacturing.
I lead our prototyping and testing efforts, and, as we grow, I get to build out a strong technical team to accomplish our goals. A few weeks ago we purchased two semi trucks to convert and begin on-road testing of our low carbon engine technology later this year.
Q: How did you get interested in your current field? What interests or circumstance drew you to it?
I sometimes call myself a “tender-hearted” mechanical engineer. I’ve always been drawn to understanding how things work, solving puzzles, and trying to make life better for people around me. I would go back and forth between deeply technical engineering research and volunteer work where I could be tangibly useful to someone needing help. I’ve been able to knit these together as an engineer focused on energy solutions that can work in diverse geographies and economies globally, where my motivation stems from energy enabling quality of life, and the need to actually expand energy access throughout the globe, while simultaneously lowering harmful emissions.
Q: Tell us about some notable professional or personal accomplishments.
In 2016 I completed my PhD in mechanical engineering, with a focus on energy systems, from Stanford University. I’m proud of the work I did there and everything I learned in the Advanced Energy Systems Laboratory that prepared me to tackle complex problems with an “unstoppable” mindset. That same year I co-founded ClearFlame Engine Technologies with a fellow Stanford labmate.
Together we have secured more than $3M in grant funding and $5M in venture funding to advance the technology toward commercialization. In 2020, I demonstrated a 500hp heavy duty semi truck engine that I had modified to operate on cleaner fuel with net negative lifecycle carbon emissions. This year, we have begun integrating the technology into our first truck prototype.
Q: Was there a particular course or project at JHU that made a big impact on you or influenced your career path?
When I took thermodynamics my sophomore year, I loved learning how energy systems, rockets, engines, and all of these hugely important processes work so much that I changed my major from biomedical engineering to mechanical engineering. I still hear Professor Katz’s voice in my head when I have to do a first law analysis. I also think that Professor KT Ramesh’s mechanics-based design course is still one of the most practical and useful courses I’ve ever taken. I still reference the book with the post-it notes I marked it up with during my time at Hopkins.
At JHU I learned to work hard, and to collaborate with other mechanical engineers. I learned to rise to the occasion when professors had high expectations, and time and time again I surprised myself by learning something that at first seemed impossible to master.
Q: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring engineers?
I’ve met so many extremely accomplished and fascinating people who did NOT have linear or predictable career paths. My advice to aspiring engineers is to continue asking questions, learning, and pursuing opportunities you are passionate about even if it’s not the “obvious” or “expected” next step.
Q: Tell us something interesting about yourself.
Being a tender-hearted person, I hope to dispel the notion that to excel in tough engineering sectors you have to be purely analytical or even unfeeling. I hope to encourage others by example to bring their “whole selves” to whatever industry they find most interesting or compelling! The difference you bring is a gift to be celebrated.