Millikin University student-led startup BluSolar has been gaining recognition for its work with clean energy. The startup was not only named a finalist by Clean Energy Trust (CET) for the Cleantech University Prize (UP), but was recently selected as one of the top 15 startups for the Startup World Cup.
BluSolar is a cleantech startup that offers research and development services pertaining to the cryogenic treatment of photovoltaics. Working in conjunction with 300 Below Inc., the world leader in commercial cryogenic processing solutions, BluSolar provides tailored solutions for solar manufacturers or distributors wishing to enhance their product via cryogenic treatment.
In a recent interview with WCIA-TV, Hunter Somers, a junior physics major from Heyworth, Ill., said, "With cryo, you basically freeze it, really, really cold, and then you bring it back to room temperature. The molecular structure is realigned such that it's more robust and overall a better structure."
The startup is a joint venture between students from the Millikin Institute for Science Entrepreneurship (ISE) and students from Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE). The students are working under the guidance of Julie Shields, director of Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship, and Dr. Casey Watson, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Millikin.
"It started off as a competition and then we realized we really enjoyed what we were doing, so it just evolved into a business," said Estefano Martinez, a sophomore business major from Zionsville, Ind., and CEO of BluSolar.
The winner of the Cleantech UP Showcase will be determined by a panel of expert cleantech industry judges. The winner will receive a $50,000 grant and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishers will go on to present at the Clean Energy Trust Challenge event as well as the DoE National Cleantech UP competition. The final pitch showcase will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Polsky Center for Innovation at the University of Chicago.
The Startup World Cup is a global conference and competition that brings together the top startups, VCs, entrepreneurs and world-class tech CEOs. BluSolar will make its pitch at the Startup World Cup Pitch Competition on Feb. 2 at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, Calif.
"There are so many possibilities," said Martinez. "Every day we're like, 'we could freeze this!' And I think there's a bunch of potential, especially in the clean energy field."
Martinez says when certain materials are cryogenically treated, molecular structures are permanently realigned in a way that can improve overall performance. BluSolar has demonstrated a 25 percent improvement in wattage output because of the microstructural changes to the photovoltaic solar cells.