COLLEGE PARK, Md.—Mesdi Systems Inc., a company founded by a team of six students from the University of Central Florida (UCF) developing precision electrospray modules to accelerate and improve the production of lithium-ion battery components, won the first annual ACC Clean Energy Challenge and the Department of Energy’s $100,000 grand prize.

The UCF Mesdi team presented their technology to a panel of expert judges from the clean energy venture community at the ACC Clean Energy Final Four on April 25. Mesdi now moves on to represent the southeast region in the DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Finals in Washington, D.C., on June 12-13, 2012.

Winning second place and $15,000 was the University of Maryland (UMD) team SafeLiCell, which is developing a noncombustible, flexible, polymer electrolyte material called Lithium Flex that would replace the highly flammable liquid electrolyte and bulky battery packaging found in most lithium-ion batteries.

The daylong ACC Clean Energy Challenge finals event began with the Elite Eight Plus Two, eight teams who earned automatic berths from their respective ACC school competitions and two at-large teams from non-ACC schools in the southeast United States.  Along with UCF and UMD, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech advanced to the afternoon’s Final Four where the judges selected Mesdi Systems as the inaugural ACC Clean Energy Challenge Champion.  The $100,000 prize and ACC Clean Energy Cup were presented by Department of Energy officials, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, and representatives and mascots from the co-host schools of University of Maryland, University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech.

"The ACC Clean Energy Challenge was a perfect way to show pride in our individual ACC schools while still working together and leveraging our collective strengths as a conference, but not just in sports," said Dean Chang, director of venture programs for the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) at the University of Maryland and principal investigator for the ACC Clean Energy Challenge. “The ACC is the top-rated BCS conference in the country in terms of the average ranking of all its member universities and annually conducts over $4 billion in cutting-edge research. So there’s no reason the ACC should be any less successful with fuel cells compared to football, or batteries compared to basketball, or solar cells compared to soccer."

Mesdi's winning technology could make the manufacturing process of lithium ion batteries faster, less expensive, and with higher quality and yield. The company's electrospray technology improves the critical coating and powder synthesis step in the manufacturing of energy, electronic, and medical materials by precisely controlling droplet size and droplet distribution significantly better than existing techniques. Mesdi's team, all from the University of Central Florida, includes Brandon Lojewski, Weiwei Deng, Jian Liu, Cheng Li, Michael Tullbane, Thomas Yang, and Johan Rodriguez.

The UMD team SafeLiCell has developed a patent-pending solid-state polymer battery electrolyte, called Lithium Flex, to replace the highly flammable liquid electrolyte found in just about all of today’s lithium-ion batteries. Lithium Flex is a strong, noncombustible, flexible film that can be wrapped or bent into different shapes without breaking, and therefore eliminates the expensive safety circuitry and heavy protective casings that are required of liquid electrolytes. SafeLiCell's team includes chemical and biomolecular engineering graduate student Aaron Fisher, and Fischell Department of Bioengineering Professor Peter Kofinas.

The ACC Clean Energy Challenge finals also featured keynote speaker Kate Brass, ecomagination program manager for GE, who spoke about how GE has challenged innovators to think differently to "not just make light bulbs, make light" and how GE’s ecomagination challenge has partnered with leading venture capital firms to invest over $85 million in energy storage, utility security, energy management software and electric vehicle charging services.

SAIC's Sustainability Program Lead Nicholas Livigne also highlighted how his company is integrating clean energy throughout the organization and with its clients, including the U.S. government.

A Clean Energy Investment Trends Panel featuring Phil Deutch, managing partner of NGP Energy Technology Partners, Raymond Fan, vice president of Arborview Capital, and Rich Harris, investment committee member for Elan Management, discussed the current state and future of investing in clean energy.

The ACC Clean Energy Challenge networking expo and banquet held the evening of April 24 featured keynote speaker Henry Kelly, then principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE, now senior advisor to the director of the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy. Kelly provided insights into why technology and innovation in energy are critical to the United States and shared DOE’s vision for technology and energy policy.  Also at the banquet, Lockheed Martin’s Energy Initiative Senior Manager Koeunyi Bae provided an overview Lockheed’s extensive clean and green energy programs.

ACC Clean Energy Challenge sponsors included Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), BechtelFish & Richardson P.C., Lockheed MartinNixon Peabody LLPSAIC, and Smart Energy News.

The ACC Clean Energy Challenge was co-hosted by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute at the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Virginia Tech. The competition will rotate among three sub-regions with nearby ACC schools co-hosting each year. Maryland, Virginia, and Virginia Tech co-host in Washington, D.C., in year one; Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest co-host in Research Triangle in year two; and Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Miami will co-host in Atlanta in year three.

The ACC Clean Energy Challenge was made possible by the generous contributions of many judges and mentors, including: Dadi Akhavan, FounderCorps; Koeunyi Bao, Lockheed Martin; Ed Barrientos, FounderCorps; Kate Brass, GE Energy; Jack Brown, University of Virginia; David Bruce, Clemson University; Evan Burfield, Startup DC; Jarrett Cantrell, Bechtel; Craig Chambers, FounderCorps; Ruy Chaves, Plastrom Sensormatic; Dick Daughtery, VT KnowledgeWorks; Roger Debo, North Carolina State University; Phil Deutch, NGP Energy Technology Partners; John Elstner, VenturePoint Partners; Raymond Fan, Arborview Capital; Jim Flowers, VT KnowledgeWorks; Dan Goodman, Relativity Sciences; Rich Harris, Elan Management; Gary Henry, Charlottesville Technology Incubator; Tim Howland, Virginia Tech; Terry Hsiao, FounderCorps; Sam Johnson, University of Virginia; Marc Juncunc, Virginia Tech; Steve Kalland, North Carolina Solar Center; Bob Lorand, SAIC; Tom Miller, North Carolina State University; Bobby Ocampo, GroTech Ventures; Todd Oretsky, Jack Oretsky Holdings; Edmund Pendleton, University of Maryland; Jay Ratafia-Brown, SAIC; Casey Reeves, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Michael Rihani, Koofers; Andrew Rosenstein, Current Grid; Marco Rubin, Exoventure; David Slutzky, Skeo Solutions; Erika Smith, Rock Spring Ventures; Gregory Stone, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP; Valerie Thomas, Georgia Tech; Russell Thomas, North Carolina State University; Ivan Urlaub, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association; Stephen Walsh, North Carolina State University; Steve Woda, FounderCorps; and David Zumbrunnen, Clemson University. 

The $100K ACC Clean Energy Challenge is a new business plan competition encouraging students from all universities throughout the southeastern United States to develop business plans for new clean energy companies focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements and advanced fuels/vehicles. As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to support and empower the next generation of American clean energy entrepreneurs, the Department of Energy selected the ACC Clean Energy Challenge and five additional regional competitions in the U.S. as part of its inaugural nationwide network of student-focused clean energy business plan competitions over the next three years.
For photos and video of the competition, visit:

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The University of Maryland educates the next generation of entrepreneurs, creates successful ventures, and connects Maryland companies with university resources to help them succeed. UMD is ranked as one the nation's top schools for entrepreneurship and innovation as a result of 25 years of collaborative effort from  the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship in the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Highlights include: three experiential entrepreneurship learning programs and 30 entrepreneurship and innovation courses serving more than 1,200 students at the pre-college, undergraduate, graduate and executive education levels; monthly entrepreneur office hours and mentoring/pitch programs with experienced entrepreneurs-in-residence; a global entrepreneurship program with partnerships in China and Israel; a technology incubator/accelerator startup program with more than 100 graduates including billion dollar companies such as Martek Biosciences and Digene; and an on-campus angel network of more than 40 active, accredited angel investors and venture capitalists for early-stage capital. UMD has had a $25.7 billion impact on the Maryland economy and helped create or retain more than 5,300 jobs. Top-selling products such as MedImmune’s Synagis®, which protects infants from a deadly respiratory disease, and Hughes Communications’ HughesNet®, which brings satellite-based, high-speed Internet access to the world, were developed through or enhanced by UMD programs.
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