seeing green

New research lab opens in University of Houston's tech transfer facility

A national research institute recently opened a new lab and outpost adjacent to the University of Houston's campus. Photo via UH.edu

A national organization has opened a new Houston outpost at a local university campus.

The Electrochemical Safety Research Institute, or ESRI, of UL Research Institutes opened the doors to a new laboratory in Houston in November. The new space was established to further research renewable energy technologies.

“As the world transitions from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, we are working with research teams across several organizations to lay the scientific groundwork for safe and reliable energy storage alternatives,” says Judy Jeevarajan, ESRI’s executive director, in a news release. “Since several of our research partners are based in Houston, the natural progression was to open our own laboratory in the area.”

The lab is housed in the University of Houston Technology Bridge, a startup park next to the university’s main campus. A team of ESRI’s research scientists will have access to explore the safety and performance of renewable energy technologies. Per the release, ESRI already has ongoing projects with UH within hydrogen research, solid-state batteries, and the synthesis of magnesium-ion separators.

“We are significantly expanding both our capacity and scope to better meet today’s increasingly urgent safety challenges,” says Christopher J. Cramer, ULRI’s chief research officer. “Our new Houston facility is one element of that expansion. The lab will strengthen the synergies between ESRI and our research partners in the area and accelerate scientific discoveries to help create a safer, more sustainable world.”

The facility will also act as a homebase for all Houston-area collaborations. Per the release, the new lab "will also facilitate ESRI’s research partnership with Rice University on lithium-ion cell recycling and the research institute’s work with NASA’s Johnson Space Center on thermal runaway mitigation and micro-USB lithium-ion battery safety." The organization also collaborates with Houston-based Stress Engineering Services Inc.

“We’re delighted to welcome the Electrochemical Safety Research Institute to its new home in Houston,” says Chris Taylor, executive director of the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation at the University of Houston, in the release. “Together, we can build upon our research culture of collaboration as we pursue innovations for the greater good.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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A View From HETI

HEXASpec was founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program. Photo courtesy of Rice

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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