HOUGHTON – Four technologies from universities across Michigan that demonstrate commercial potential in applied advanced materials earned funding from the Michigan Technological University Translational Research and Commercialization statewide Innovation Hub. The support will help them continue their path toward commercialization. Michigan Tech engineering faculty led two of the projects.
The MTRAC program, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative, is designed to support applicants with high-tech projects in applied advanced materials from institutions of higher education, non-profit research centers and hospital systems across the state to help them get out of the lab and into the market.
A 10-member oversight committee consisting of venture capitalists, materials experts from various fields and experienced entrepreneurs reviewed 17 proposals from six universities. The level of innovation coupled with the ability to solve a real-life problem and achieve commercialization were the primary factors considered in approving funding.
Newly funded projects are:
- Polar Salt Process for High Surface Area Refined Salt: A novel, energy-efficient process using low-cost Michigan-based feedstock to produce a zero additive, premium grade salt providing a quicker burst of flavor with less salt while enhancing other flavors. Principal investigator: Tim Eisele, associate professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech.
- Recycling of Lithium-ion Battery: A next generation recycling of lithium-ion batteries to recover a high value product for re-use in new batteries that is economical and produces high purity materials, addressing the environmental, regulatory and supply chain concerns for cell phones, laptops, tablets and electric vehicle markets. Principal investigator: Lei Pan, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech.
- Low-Cost Fabrication Approach for Self-Cleaning and Smudge-Free Resistant Glass Panels: This environmentally friendly fluorine-free, low-cost and high- adhesion self-cleaning coating system is used for applications such as windows, solar panels, windshields, self-cleaning metals and foul-resistant coatings. Principal investigator: Muhammad Rabnawaz, assistant professor, School of Packaging at Michigan State University.
- Scalable Ultra-Thin Metal Based Transparent Conductors and Applications: A scalable and cost-effective approach to produce ultra-thin and smooth silver film that exhibits high flexibility, high optical transmission, high conductivity, high stability and low haze for optically transparent conductors required in optoelectronic devices. It addresses the needs of this large and growing market, including transparent conductive films for touch screens, flexible electronics and displays, electrochromic smart glass and windows, and electromagnetic interference shielding. Principal investigator: Jay Guo, professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan.
“The MTRAC program is critically important to our commercialization program at Michigan Tech and at universities across the state,” said Jim Baker, Tech’s executive director of Innovation and Industry Engagement. “In addition to the funding that helps us reach milestones that are essential in moving technologies down the commercialization path, all projects receive valuable feedback and network connections from the external oversight committee members. Michigan Tech’s Advanced Materials MTRAC program has returned almost $14 for every $1 spent on projects funded to date.”
In the five years that Tech has been participating in MTRAC, more than 50 new product proposals have been reviewed and $675,000 has been awarded. The projects have collectively brought in nearly $9 million in follow-on funding.
Michigan Tech is one of four universities with an MTRAC program; others include the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University. Each university has a different focus for projects to receive funding to accelerate to commercialization within applied advanced materials, agriculture biology, life sciences, advanced transportation and biomedical.
“This funding announcement is another great stride in demonstrating the success of the statewide innovation hub model,” said Denise Graves, university relations director at MEDC.
“With our goal to spur technology transfer from our universities across the state, programs like MTRAC—that build our entrepreneurial ecosystem through collaborations—are instrumental in utilizing our university innovation and resources to become leaders in industries such as advanced applied materials.”
Developed and managed by the MEDC, MTRAC programs have funded, through March 2018, 159 projects at Michigan universities, helped develop 29 start-up companies, created 100 jobs, secured over $130 million in additional funding and licensed technology to 22 Michigan companies.