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Semifinalists named in PSU-Wells Fargo Cleantech Challenge
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: May 31, 2013

The PSU-Wells Fargo Cleantech Challenge moved into Phase Two this week after six semifinalists were selected to advance from the May 23 pitching round at the PSU Business Accelerator.

From a pool of 21 teams that signed up to take the challenge, six semifinalists were selected to develop their prototypes over the summer with the help of a $5,000 Cleantech Challenge development grant.

Portland State University and Wells Fargo joined forces this spring to launch the Cleantech Challenge. The winning innovation will be crowned in September and will receive a $25,000 prize and business development assistance.

The challenge’s first round featured rapid-fire pitches from all the teams.

“It was an exciting event, and a great testament to the creativity and innovation here at PSU,” said Angela Jackson, director of the PSU Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, whose team organizes the challenge. “We were thrilled to see so much cross-campus collaboration.”

Teams were required to include a PSU student or faculty member, and the groups that emerged into the semifinalist round represent a diverse cross-section of the university.

The semifinalist teams are:

  • Simon Fowler, graduate physics student; Emilio Molina, undergraduate mechanical engineering student; Esteban Rodriquez-Ariza, undergraduate chemistry student; and Dr. Jun Jiao, physics professor, working on a photocatalytic water purification system that uses a unique method of magnetic photocatalyst recycling to purify water of organic contaminants using only solar energy.
  • Anne Phillip, recent PSU biology alum, along with John Talik, Matthew Stewart and Taylor Rice, undergraduate mechanical engineering students, working on a home aquaponics system that raises fish and vegetables together using a biofilter to recycle fish waste in the plant fertilizer.
  • Haian Li, Ph.D. physics researcher; Lester Lampert, graduate applied physics student; and Dr. Jun Jiao, physics and mechanical and materials engineering professor, working on an antireflective and efficient spray-coating film using a photosynthetic organism called diatoms to enhance the light-electricity conversion efficiency of solar cells.
  • Emily Ediger and Megan Foley, undergraduate biology students, along with Nick Simms, undergraduate business student, working on natural pigments derived from microorganisms to synthesize dyes on a large scale in completely controlled environments.
  • Peter Dusicka, civil and environmental engineering assistant professor, working on lightweight and corrosion-resistant buckling restraining braces made from nonconventional construction materials to protect buildings from earthquake damage.
  • Heber Miguel, undergraduate business and economics student, and Michael Boros, undergraduate general science student, working on a fuel processor system that recycles waste oil into clean diesel fuel.

Each of the semifinalists teams will work closely with PSU and community mentors over the next 90 days. Teams will also partake in intensive learning sessions by PSU and community partners, including Mercy Corps Tech4Change Startup Weekend, Oregon TiE Mentor Connect, Lab2Market with DFJ Frontier venture capital, and Oregon BEST entrepreneurs-in-residence.

Teams will hunker down in a co-work lab at the Maseed College of Engineering while in the race to complete their environmental innovation prototypes.

In September, the teams will converge at Oregon BEST FEST, an annual showcase of clean technology presented by the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center. Each team will present their work to a panel of judges, vying for the $25,000 grand prize.

Photos by Zane Luther.