ChemE Start-Up Secures Translational Funding

ChemE Start-Up Secures Translational Funding

From left: Batholomew Kimani, Aaron West, Greg Newbloom, Prof. Lilo Pozzo, Ryan Kastilani, Eden Rivers, Lauren Martin, Jaime Rodriguez and Claire Wei

Ionic Windows, a UW Chemical Engineering start-up, has been awarded a competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000 and an Amazon Catalyst grant for $100,000 to help translate their technology from university setting to commercialization.

Ionic Windows has developed a novel low-cost molecular filter for use in harsh environments. It’s made from commodity silica gel, commonly found as a desiccant in food packing, with pores as small as a few molecules wide. Low cost molecular filters also have commercial upside with the potential to capture a $1.3 billion dollar market that spans applications in water purification, pharmaceutical development, gas separations, batteries, fuel cells and food processing.

One promising initial application for these molecular filters is their use in grid-scale energy storage. Flow batteries have the ability to store city-sized quantities of renewable energy. However, they require the use of expensive molecular filters that are not easily replaced due to the harsh battery environments. The low-cost filters being developed by Ionic Windows have the potential to reduce the cost of flow batteries by as much as 30%. Lower cost grid-scale storage means that more renewable energy generation (e.g., solar & wind) can be added without overwhelming the grid.

The Ionic Windows engineering team has grown to 6 full-time staff and graduate students over the last 10 months and is led by Greg Newbloom (PhD ’14) and Lilo Pozzo, the Weyerhaeuser Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering. “What’s great about these funding sources is that they allow us to do product development instead of fundamental research,” Newbloom says. “We’re on target to have a minimum viable product to potential customers by April. We’re also graduating out of Benson Hall into a commercial space and building our founding team, so it’s an exciting time.”

Both granting organizations allow for follow-on commercialization funding. NSF SBIR Phase I recipients are eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $750,000). Ionic Windows is also seeking additional capital from the Seattle angel community and strategic investors to scale faster.