MIT Clean Energy Prize Awards $400,000 to Energy Efficiency, Renewable Ventures

Earlier this month, the MIT Clean Energy Prize (CEP) announced the winners of the 2015 competition at the Eversource MIT Clean Energy Prize Showcase & Grand Prize Awards Ceremony, where it awarded over $400,000, including Grand Prizes of $200,000 sponsored by Eversource Energy and $75,000 sponsored by the United States Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency office. In addition, three track winners won $35,000 each, and $15,000 was awarded for the Energy for Development Prize. Audience Choice awards of $2,500 each were also distributed.

Grand Prize Winner

OptiBit, the winner of the $275,000 Grand Prize, helps data centers keep up with skyrocketing volumes of data by offering revolutionary hardware that brings the high bandwidth and energy efficiency offered by fiber optics directly inside computer chips. Using patented technology developed over 10 years at MIT, UC Berkeley, and University of Colorado, OptiBit replaces today’s copper technology with a drop-in photonics solution that has 10x more throughput, 2x lower latency, and 95 percent less energy use.

Energy Efficiency Track Winner

NextTint, the $35,000 MassCEC Energy Efficiency prize winner, has developed a tinting window film that can tune the amount of light and heat that is transferred through a building’s windows with a simple flick of a switch. The technology aims to eliminate the need for blinds and has the potential for drastically faster switching speeds than its competitors. NextTint’s technology can keep occupants comfortable, reduce glare, and reduce energy costs and use up to 25 percent.

Infrastructure and Resources Track Winner

CoolFlux, the $35,000 GDF Suez Infrastructure and Resources prize winner, is a building insulation technology that uses phase change materials to improve a building’s cooling performance by up to 40 percent, allowing owners to save money and comply with impending energy regulations. Savings come not only from operational expenses, but also construction costs through AC downsizing. Furthermore, this patent pending technology is a risk-free drop-in replacement for industry standard insulation and requires no additional expertise to install.

Renewable Energy Track Winner

Navi-Chem, the $35,000 GE Ventures Renewable Energy prize winner, is using a novel, low-cost and eco-friendly solution to produce high-value chemicals such as lactic acid from organic municipal solid waste. Navi-Chem looks at waste as an abundant, zero-cost (potentially negative cost) and renewable feedstock for a novel microbial process to produce a high value chemical such as lactic acid, whose yearly consumption is estimated to grow at a yearly rate of 20 percent.

Energy for Development Winner

Safire, the $15,000 Factor(E) Ventures Energy for Development prize winner, has developed a process for low-cost pretreatment and densification of biomass at source, increasing the feasibility of using biomass as a renewable energy in poorer regions of the world. The team has pioneered a process for low-cost pretreatment and densification of biomass at source (i.e., at the level of small farms where biomass originates), opening up access to biomass in new rural areas that previously have been deemed too far away to be economically viable.

Audience Choice Awards

Safire was also a recipient of one of two $2,500 Audience Choice awards, as was Emreso, developer of a new electromagnetic geophysical method of monitoring fluid/gas movement, enhancing oil field recoveries and helping operators control reservoir behavior and monitor carbon sequestration.

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Eric Kirchblum is a 2016 MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management, focusing on energy, sustainability, and entrepreneurship. Prior to Sloan, Eric was an assistant vice president in the private equity team at Partners Group, a global private markets asset manager, where he focused on control and joint-control middle-market equity transactions across a variety of industries, including business services, tech / software, and consumer goods. Eric graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, where he majored in Economics and Finance.

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