The Clean Energy Trust (CET) is pleased to announce that NuMat Technologies, a materials-based startup from Northwestern University in Illinois, captured top honors at the 2012 Clean Energy Challenge. The company received the $100,000 grand prize sponsored by the Department of Energy and a $10,000 state prize from CET and its Illinois partners.

NuMat winning team

NuMat Technologies has developed a proprietary computational screening tool for rapidly identifying and testing absorbent nanomaterials, known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). These materials benefit clean energy applications, such as natural gas vehicles, by reducing pressurization requirements and increasing the amount of gas stored in each tank. NuMat also developed a complimentary, low-cost approach to synthesize, purify, stabilize and experimentally evaluate MOFs. The team is comprised of Tabrez Ebrahim, Omar Farha, Ben Hernandez and Chris Wilmer.

These prizes will help the winning clean energy entrepreneurs move their technology out of the laboratory and into the marketplace, creating new high-tech jobs along the way,” said Amy Francetic, Clean Energy Trust executive director. “The Challenge is designed to commercialize innovation by identifying and rewarding the most promising clean energy businesses. It was a tough competition and these winners represent the best of the Midwest’s new entrepreneurs in clean energy.”

More than 40 student-led companies in all aspects of clean energy submitted applications for the Challenge. An impressive group of 19 semifinalists were selected to compete on February 29 at the Student Fast Pitch Blitz for a finalist seat at the Challenge. The eight finalist teams then presented their business plans to a distinguished panel of nationally renowned investors, corporations and entrepreneurs at the Clean Energy Challenge, held March 1 in Chicago. All of the Challenge teams received coaching and business planning assistance from dozens of volunteer mentors coordinated by the Clean Energy Trust, a nonprofit technology accelerator that connects entrepreneurs, researchers and early-stage companies with the expertise and capital to become sustainable. Teams were also invited to participate in a series of weekly webinars, hosted by The Clean Energy Challenge is the signature event of the Clean Energy Trust.

Finalists were selected from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The anchor partners for the Student Challenge --Cleantech Open, Nortech, University of Michigan, Purdue University and Washington University—provided funding for the state-level prizes.

The National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition is engaging the next generation of America’s energy leaders,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The winning teams have developed effective strategies for commercializing new clean energy technologies that will help American businesses lead in the global economy.”
$10,000 prizes were awarded to the top performing Student Challenge semifinalists from each of the five anchor states:

Convolutus, Purdue University, IN
Manufactures large strain extrusion maching equipment, capable of producing metal strips in a single step, with a significant reduction in cost and energy use.

Team: Mert Efe, Brady Kalb, Wilfredo Moscoso and Dinakar Sagapuram

Design Flux Technologies, University of Akron, OH
Provides an all-in-one solution to energy management that integrates the energy source, the battery’s control system and the application at a lower cost and higher efficiency than existing products.

Team: Terence Baptiste, Courtney Gras and Tom Vo

NuMat Technologies, Northwestern University, IL

Regenerate USA, University of Michigan, MI
Designs and leases patent-pending Compact Organic Waste Stations (COWS), which convert organic waste into hot water and compost products in a process similar to that of a cow’s digestive system. COWS are equipped with a monitoring system for tracking and improving consumer disposal trends.

Team: Hunt Briggs, Paul Davis, Bobby Levine and Nolan Orfield

Saturnis, Washington University in St. Louis, MO
Utilizing a patent-pending one-step chemical process to convert a variety of biomass feedstocks into liquid fuel for the transportation sector. The process is designed to be carbon neutral and does not require pretreatment or separation of feedstocks.

Team: Daniel Garcia and Mike Gidding

Clean Energy Trust will be sharing videos of the event in the weeks to come, so check the website often to catch a glimpse of these teams in action!