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NuMat Technologies beat out five other finalists Wednesday to become the grand prize winner of the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, taking home $180,000 in prizes, which includes seed money for their company and additional prizes from sponsors including technical, design and legal assistance. SolidEnergy Systems came in second place, and Navillum Nanotechnologies won the People’s Choice Award.

The four students that comprise the start-up NuMat Technologies from Northwestern University are bringing to market a cleantech spin-out that computationally designs and synthesizes high-performing nanomaterials for gas storage and separation applications.

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a new kind of nanoporous material, has the potential to change how the world stores, transports, and separates gases. Because molecules of gas stick strongly to the surface of their pores, MOFs soak up gases, just like a bath sponge soaks up water. They are inexpensive, simple to manufacture, and can be custom designed at the atomic level for specific applications.

In the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, students from the top U.S. universities were tasked with forming a complete businessplan to commercialize a technology developed at their school or one of the National Labs. Each company pitches to panels of expert judges at the regional levels before they advanced to the final pitch, and a chance at the grand prize. Out of 300 student teams nationwide, only six regional finalists made it to the final pitch. The five runners up were:

Mesdi Systems from University of Central Florida: Mesdi Systems developed revolutionary equipment for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, solar cells, and other high precision products that will improve their performance and lifetime with advanced coatings and quality control.

Navillum Nanotechnologies from University of Utah: Navillum Nanotechnologies developed a process to fabricate quantum dots and other types of semiconducting nanocrystals. When used in liquid crystal displays (LCD),quantum dots improve energy efficiency by up to 35 percent and in solar panels can increase efficiency up to 45 percent.

SolidEnergy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology: SolidEnergy Systems developed cutting-edge battery technologies to meet the world’s growing energy storage demand. The Polymer Ionic Liquid (PIL) rechargeable lithium battery has four times the energy density of a conventional lithium-ion battery.

Stanford Nitrogen Group from Stanford University: The Stanford Nitrogen Group developed a new wastewater treatment process, termed “CANDO”, for the removal and recovery of energy from waste nitrogen. The CANDO technology improves the efficiency of nitrogen treatment by lowering energy inputs and enabling energy recovery from waste nitrogen.

Radiator Labs from Columbia University: Radiator Labs developed a low-cost, easily installed radiator retrofit that converts radiator heating systems into a controlled-zoned system, which significantly increases the efficiency of radiator heating while improving occupant comfort.

The judges ranked their plans based on clean energy impact, solution creativity, execution and financial strategy, market and customer knowledge, and team composition, chemistry and commitment.

The National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition also included an online vote where people could review the company’s summaries, view a three-minute video pitch, and then ‘like’ the company they thought would most positively impact America’s energy future. Navillum Nanotechnologies was recognized at the White House awards ceremony Wednesday for winning the popular vote.

The competition aims to inspire university teams across the country and promote entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost American competitiveness, bring cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market, and strengthen our economic prosperity.