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SB Receives NSF Grant for Water Remediation Technology

I corps team
I-Corps team
From left to right: Clive Clayton, SPIR Founder and Director; Jusang Lee, Materials Science graduate student; and Perena Gouma, Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Director of the Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development.

Stony Brook has been selected among the first 21 teams for the inaugural class of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) awards. I-Corps is a program designed to guide promising university research with commercial potential into the marketplace.

Recipients receive a $50,000 grant to begin assessing the commercial readiness of emerging technology concepts, and will receive guidance from both public- and private-sector experts and the opportunity to meet with potential investors. Stony Brook’s project, the utilization of nanogrids or Photocatalysts for Water Remediation (PWR) is the invention of Perena Gouma, Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Director of the Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development, and Materials Science graduate student Jusang Lee.

“Stony Brook University is proud and honored to be among the first of 21 chosen to participate in the NSF’s new I-Corps program that assists in bringing scientific discovery and innovative technological development into the marketplace for the benefit of society,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “This is a reflection of the pioneering research, discovery, and technology transfer that is happening every day at Stony Brook.”

The first round of awards is representative of six fields: Engineering; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Biology; Mathematics and Physical Sciences; Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences; and Education and Human Resources. I-Corps participants will gain valuable business experience in the process of transforming scientific and engineering innovation into useful technology.

The PWR team consists of three members: Gouma (principal investigator), Lee (entrepreneurial lead) and Clive Clayton, who will serve as the commercialization mentor and offer guidance in translating laboratory research into a successful business endeavor. Clayton is the Founder and Director of the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR), a program that has developed more than 2,500 high-tech projects with more than 440 companies since 1994. He is also a leading professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook.

Photocatalysts for Water Remediation is a unique nanocatalyst technology that utilizes solar energy to break down harmful pollutants such as hydrocarbons. PWR or nanogrids are miniaturized self-supported mats, similar to fishing nets, that float on water and rapidly decompose crude oil using solar irradiation from the full solar spectrum. The result is that pollutants are turned into water, carbon dioxide, and other biodegradable organics for fast and efficient oil decomposition and environmental remediation. Current industrial photocatalysts respond to only a small percentage of the solar irradiation (ultraviolet light) and are unable to float.

“There are numerous applications for our nanogrids in water remediation,” said Gouma. “They can clean oil spills effectively, whether near the shore or in the middle of the ocean, in a lake, river, a refinery, or a water-cleaning facility.” Gouma added that if commercialization of this technology occurs, the impact can result in the creation of new jobs, nanotechnology training and manufacturing for real and versatile products, and a cleaner environment. Patents on this new technology have been applied for and are currently pending.

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