Photo Credit: CalTech First Look West

Vescence from the University of Houston took home the top Cleantech University Prize (Cleantech UP) award at this year’s California Institute of Technology (Caltech) First Look West (FLoW) business plan competition. The startup’s founders have developed a patented water repellant coating that minimizes contaminant buildup on the glass surface of solar panels. Vescence is field testing its innovative technology on 40 solar panels at the University of Houston this summer. 

Taking second and third place at the Caltech FLoW competition were South 8 Technologies, Interphase, and Membrion. South 8 Technologies has developed a novel chemistry for lithium batteries that could lead to the next generation of energy storage devices. The team from the University of California San Diego anticipates having a prototype line ready for testing with customers as early as 2019. Interphase Materials from the University of Southern California and Membrion from the University of Washington tied for third place. Interphase Materials has developed a surface treatment technology for water-based industrial cooling systems, which reduces utility spend by increasing heat transfer efficiency and protecting against bio-fouling and corrosion. The technology creates a nanolayer on cooling system hardware to improve interactions between cooling water and tubing. Membrion has developed high-performance, low-cost membranes that improve the performance of flow batteries. Flow batteries have been identified as the optimal choice for grid-scale energy storage but have never scaled rapidly due to the costly price of the membrane. 

These clean energy teams will join 21 others from across the country to compete in the National Cleantech UP competition June 26 – 27 in Austin, Texas. To learn more about the others competing this summer, visit the Cleantech UP website.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Cleantech University Prize (Cleantech UP) business plan competitions provide aspiring student entrepreneurs with the mentorship, business development skills and training, and investor feedback they need to turn their clean energy ideas into businesses offering real-world solutions. Cleantech UP is part of the Tech-to-Market Program within the Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy.