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Thursday, June 1, 2023

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UH nanotech company receives high prize


C-Voltaics won the 2013 Goradia Innovation Grand Prize for Seamus “Shay” Curran’s invention. | Courtesy of

Nanotechnology company C-Voltaics, which was launched in the Energy Research Park, was awarded the 2013 Goradia Innovation Grand Prize on Oct. 9 by the Houston Technology Center.

Physics assistant professor Nigel Alley, a researcher for the Institute for NanoEnergy, was elated that his work received great recognition, helping to launch his customer base.

“It’s always nice to see your work succeed and (to have) people recognize it and the amount of work that went into it,” Alley said. “It’s been a long road developing it … and it helps to get the word out there that we are ready (to do) business and looking to sell to people.”

The product’s success can impact University infrastructure by providing it more research credit and a higher rank and by attracting more prestigious faculty. Director of the Institute for NanoEnergy and physics associate professor Seamus Curran said that the project could be a long-lasting source of revenue.

“Essentially, the University has taken an equity position, which means they own shares to the company. But they also have a royalty on the IP of the intellectual property,” Curran said. “Let’s say, for every dollar that we sell, the University gets a couple of cents … If this were to turn into a billion-dollar project, the University would benefit from royalties every year for the next 15 to 20 years.”

C-Voltaics began its efforts to prevent hurricane damages to houses after Hurricane Ike. This meant finding a product that would produce hydrophobic materials, such as glass and wood.  The company recently extended the product to protect other materials, such as paint and fabric.

Since winning the Goradia Innovation Grand Prize, C-Voltaics has been contacted by even more businesses. Institute for NanoEnergy research scientist Kang-Shyang Liao is focusing on the importance of understanding the mechanism of the product to further its success.

“You need to understand each material,” Liao said. “There’s no simple answer to solve every problem. You need a special solution. Essentially, you want to do better than other brands. You need to have a specific formula for specific types of materials.”

Eventually, C-Voltaics intends to make products that are available to individual consumers in addition to larger businesses. It is meant to differ from its competitors by providing a product that won’t wash away very quickly. Fabric coatings usually wash away in every wash, but C-Voltaics’ material is said to last up to 15 washes.

“Now, you can go out and wear white denim and drink red wine and not worry about spills,”Alley said.

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