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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Academics & Research

Professor’s nano-tech company electrifies research industry

C-Voltaics, a company led by UH associate professor Seamus Curran, will begin producing 400 pounds of hydrophobic coating a day this semester. The coating prevents liquids from staining common household materials, instead causing them to slide off completely. | Tristan Rieckhoff/The Daily Cougar

Institute for NanoEnergy associate professor Seamus Curran is leading the charge to turn cutting-edge research into real, everyday products. If he had his way, everyone would be living in, walking on and wearing materials lined with an invisible coating developed at UH.

Curran’s company, C-Voltaics, was recognized by the 2013 International Conference on Commercializing Micro and Nanotechnology with the Young Technology Award for their super-hydrophobic protective coatings.

“This award is important for the University,” Curran said. “It proves that the research dollars invested in UH create the next generation of technologies that future American jobs depend on.”

Curran and his team at C-Voltaics are poised to start producing up to 400 gallons of this coating per day in a plain, brick-lined room at the Energy Research Park this semester. What sets them apart from their competitors is the ability to consistently manufacture large amounts of a nano-based product.

The line of coatings are invisible to the naked eye and imperceptible to touch — yet so effective at repelling fluids that one can pour a cup of coffee on a pair of jeans and the liquid will remain on the surface as if it had been poured on a sheet of plastic. The liquid never soaks into the strands of fabric, so no evidence of a spill is left behind.

The technology developed at UH is being used in the marketplace, Curran said.

“There is a return on the investment that has been put into research,” he said.

Curran recommends students in all disciplines pursue business courses so they can learn the skills required to turn ideas and technologies into reality. He also recommends all students reach out to faculty for work and research opportunities.

“Looking to the future, or the whole art of discovery and understanding, is wonderful,” Curran said. “However, right now the United States economy is hurting and it requires us to change our focus a bit. If we have the potential to generate technology that can pull us out of where we are, we have to contribute to that. We have to actively participate. It’s not just teaching that will create those jobs.”

Renat Tatarin, a mathematics senior pursuing an honors thesis, is one of the students working at C-Voltaics. After a year of working with the team, he has developed a newfound confidence in communicating with industry partners.

“Research is a great opportunity to get important people to know you, to secure that recommendation later on and improve yourself before graduating while it’s free and easy. A lot of professors need help and you do have to work really hard,” Tatarin said.

“Just because you don’t want to go to graduate school doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do research. The other side is about getting to know people in the industry.”

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