The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) has announced the final winners of the OTT-sponsored EnergyTech University Prize (EnergyTech UP). On March 25, 2022, the winners were selected after a virtual competition hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation held the day before.  
The top three teams, chosen from among 11 Regional Winners and six Technology Bonus Prize Finalists, were awarded cash prizes as follows:

  • First Place, awarded $50,000: Mechanochemical Recycling of LCO Batteries, Stanford University
    • This team is leveraging a mechanochemical recycling technology for lithium cobalt oxide batteries that has improvements in efficiency, sustainability, and profitability.
  • Second Place, awarded $15,000: Self-Powered Autonomous Robot for Power Lines, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 
    • This team is providing utilities a cost-effective, sustainable solution for vibration control, inspection, and condition monitoring of power lines.
  • Third Place, awarded $5,000: Structural Piezoelectric Supercapacitors, University of Miami
    • This team is leveraging lightweight energy storage devices that function as physical structures and batteries.

“We were thrilled with the diversity of submissions we received for this first EnergyTech UP competition,” said Vanessa Chan, chief commercialization officer for DOE and director of OTT. “These winners set themselves apart by demonstrating a strong understanding of their chosen technology and creating a plan for commercialization that would actually be executable in a real-world scenario.”

Six  Technology Bonus Prize Winners were also selected during the virtual competition. Winners of each technology category were awarded $25,000, provided by the following DOE offices: Geothermal Technologies Office, Solar Energy Technologies Office, Office of Nuclear Energy, Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Building Technologies Office, and the Water Power Technologies Office. The Technology Bonus Prize Winners are as follows: 

  • Buildings: Future Heat, The University of Utah
    • This team is proving the economical and sustainable benefits of cold climate heat pump strategies in new residential developments.
  • Fossil Energy and Carbon Management: Pantheon, The State University of New York at Binghamton
    • This team will process waste glass sent to landfills and inject carbon to make a carbon-negative replacement for cement in concrete.
  • Geothermal Energy: Mesophase, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • This team is commercializing a condenser surface that can enhance heat transfer more than seven times, adding up to 7 percent power output in a plant.
  • Nuclear Energy: Alpha Nur, The University of Chicago and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    • This team proposes constructing a fleet of highly safe fission systems to lease out to remote operations and entities in need of high fidelity electricity.
  • Solar Energy: Solar Shepherds, Appalachian State University
    • This team focuses on sustainable and fair agrivoltaic solutions to make the world’s energy transition equitable.
  • Water Power: Electromaim, The George Washington University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 
    • This team proposes installing hydro-electric-generators in urban buildings to save on utilities while reducing urban carbon footprint.     

“Our office got involved in this prize as a way to foster innovation within the high-potential field of geothermal energy,” said Dr. Susan Hamm, director of the Geothermal Technologies Office at DOE. “We were so inspired by Mesophase’s business model because it addresses some of the technology’s key exploration and operational challenges. Overcoming those challenges will be vital as we seek to accelerate and expand the adoption of geothermal technologies.”  

About the Prize  

The goal of EnergyTech UP is to increase awareness about national lab-developed and other promising energy technologies, then equip students with the resources they need to strategize new and transformative ways to make these technologies marketable. Competing teams were not required to have a background in energy or business, which allowed for creative submissions from competitors with a diverse set of knowledge and experiences.  

Interest in this inaugural EnergyTech University Prize was overwhelming–180 teams from 113 schools pitched at 11 regional Explore Events–and planning for the next round of the competition is already underway. Anyone interested in competing or supporting a team next year can visit the EnergyTech UP website for details.