Get to know the teams competing the inaugural national competition. This blog will tell you a little about the teams, who they are and how they began their journey to Washington, D.C. Voting opened this morning for the public to determine which team is their favorite. Video clips and summaries are posted on the Department of Energy's website. Click "like" to vote! You can also attend the teams final pitches the morning of Wednesday, June 13th at the Department of Commerce. Register to attend here.
Northeast Regional Winner
You know that awful radiator in your apartment and your office? The team at Radiator Labs has developed a solution for that overheating, pipe knocking radiator. This inexpensive device reduces energy costs while giving the occupants more control over the temperature of their environment. The insulating cover blocks the heat from the radiator and monitors the temperature, selectively adjusting the heat allowed into the room. Ten percent of housing in the U.S. has radiators for heating and those radiators overheat buildings by 15-30%, wasting trillions of BTUs of energy annually. Radiator Labs, based out of Columbia University, was founded by Marshall Cox, Dr. John Kymissis and John Sarik and won the 5th annual MIT Clean Energy Prize competition this spring. Cox and Dr. Kymissis had worked together previously on a startup company spun out of the MIT laboratories. John Sarik joined the group, bringing his electrical engineering and DIY electronics expertise. They look forward to running a pilot project this winter to develop manufacturing, installation and energy savings standards.
Southwestern Regional Winner
Many of the things we use now run on rechargeable batteries, from our cell phones to plug-in-electric cars. What if your cell phone battery could last four times longer? Or an electric car could go four times farther on a charge? SolidEnergy has developed a new cell design with four times greater energy storage capacity and much improved safety. The team based out of Harvard University won the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston this past spring with a design innovation in rechargeable lithium metal batteries called Polymer Ionic Liquid (PIL). This technology can also operate in both warmer and cooler environments than previously possible with standard batteries. All together, this innovation broadens the range of potential applications and could give current technology, such as electric vehicles, longer battery life. The technology developed out of MIT and the team plans to first test it in the Texas oil fields before competing in bigger markets such as consumer electronics and electric vehicles. The team met in MIT’s Energy Ventures class and combined their backgrounds in applied physics and business. This project has been five years in the making and benefitted from the Boston innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem to hone their plan, make connections and gain experience. They have a prototype and a plan to scale up the technology.
Western Midwest Regional Winner
Navillum Nanotechnologies is a startup chemical manufacturing company that has developed and patented an innovative method for fabricating quantum dots and other types of nanocrystals at commercial scale. Quantum dot-based products can both save energy and produce renewable energy. For example, when used in LCD displays, quantum dots can increase energy efficiency by up to 35 percent over existing display technologies and improve color quality by 50 percent. Also, semiconducting nanocrystals can make solar panels up to 45 percent more efficient, which is more than a two-fold increase over existing commercial solar technologies. Navillum’s business team members came together through the University of Utah’s Technology Commercialization Office and Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center and have backgrounds ranging from chemical engineering to accounting. They have refined their business plan over the past year and have participated in other business plan competitions. Looking forward, Navillum is dedicated to make quantum nanocrystals on a mass scale and work with electronics and solar panel manufacturers to help revolutionize energy efficient and clean energy technologies.
Stanford Nitrogen Group
Western Regional Winner
The Stanford Nitrogen Group has turned a waste problem into a renewable energy opportunity. Waste water can be treated with bacteria to breakdown the waste, similar to that in an anaerobic digester, but producing nitrous oxide instead of methane rich biogas. The nitrous oxide, commonly used as rocket fuel, can be burned to produce electricity, turning waste treatment into electricity production. The low cost inputs and high value outputs promise a dramatic shift in how we think about our waste. The team combined their aerospace and environmental engineering expertise to look at nitrogen from a new cross cutting perspective. Five years in the making, this team has participated in other competitions, such as Imagine H2O in San Francisco, CA. They have honed their plan and practiced their pitch in the Silicon Valley venture community, seeking seed funding and early adopters for their technology.
Southeast Regional Winner
For years now nanotechnology has been a hot topic that promises great advances in fields ranging from energy storage, semiconductors, and pharmaceuticals, but producing high quality coatings and powders to enable nanotechnology remains difficult and expensive to control. The Mesdi Systems team from the University of Central Florida has a solution for applying uniform coatings and producing powders using electric forces to manipulate liquids at the nano-scale. This new technology can accelerate manufacturing and lower costs for high quality functional coatings and powders. Brandon Lojewski, a masters student at UCF saw a business opportunity in his thesis work. The whole research group has become a part of the Mesdi Systems team designing, fabricating and analyzing coatings in the lab. The company was formed by entering the Megawatt Ventures Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Innovation Ecosystem Initiative and have been aided by the UCF Office of Research and Commercialization and Venture Lab. The valuable feedback gained in this competition has strengthened their business plan and given the team experience talking with investors and developing partnerships. They have a provisional patent for the technology and aim to garner three million dollars in investment to further develop and market their technology.
Eastern Midwest Regional Winner
NuMat Technologies has developed new nanomaterials that store gases at lower pressures, reducing infrastructure costs and increasing design flexibility. Their computational tool pinpoints the optimal materials tailored to an application and their synthesis technologies produce high-performance materials. NuMat will create, market, and sell Metal Organic Frameworks, or MOFs, for gas storage, gas separations, catalysis, and sensor applications. One potential application for this innovation is in tanks to store natural gas more efficiently in motor vehicles. NuMat is a spinout of Northwestern University, and its interdisciplinary management team comes from four schools—McCormick School of Engineering, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, School of Law, and the Kellogg School of Management. NuMat has already gained national recognition for successes in business competitions and for world-record performance of its MOFs. Their next steps are to further develop customer relationships and to advance their technologies.