News Archive 2013

Nano Student Researchers Compete in Scientist Idol at EPSCoR Conference

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire November 18, 2013

Can you explain how aluminum can be used as a low-cost solution for electrodes in solar cells? How does a plasmonic structure enhance absorption in solar cells?

Students from the Institute of Nanoscience and Engineering at the University of Arkansas competed in the Science Idol contest last week at the National EPSCoR Conference. Larry Cousar, Corey Thompson and Sayan Seal demonstrated their ability to communicate effectively their research in under three minutes.

In addition to a traditional poster session, the students received sessions from Ninja Communications, an organization that promotes effective science communication. Successful authors, including Joe Schreiber and Chris Mooney, taught students how to captivate an audience through the use of a Message Triangle, part of the proprietary NinjaComs' Communications Planning Worksheet. The goal of the competition was for the students to work together to create a three-minute speech on how the research in Arkansas was stimulating the economy.

All of the students who attended the event are involved with one of the EPSCoR funded programs — the Arkansas Green Renewable Energy-Efficient Nanoplasmonic Solar Cells Center, or GREEN, or the Vertically-Integrated Center for Transformative Energy Research (VICTER). Cousar explained that the "opportunity to do my research and present it at the conference came from the support and encouragement of Dr. Naseem, an electrical engineering professor involved in GREEN."

Thompson said that the concept of Science Idol was solid. One point in his speech for Science Idol was how in Arkansas "scientists are finding ways to leverage EPSCoR funding to connect the dots between basic research and economic impact." In his speech, he highlighted educational initiatives such as the "VICTER PowerBox that provides K-12 teachers with resources to teach about energy and the GREEN Mobile, a converted Winnebago that travels the state as a mobile solar energy education lab." He cited many other Arkansas achievements that have begun changing the perception of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers in the state.

Cousar, a new graduate student in the interdisciplinary microelectronics-photonics program, commented that the experience was helpful in developing his communication skills.

SunShot Initiative Shines on Silicon Solar Solutions

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire October 23, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded one of its SunShot Incubator Awards to Silicon Solar Solutions LLC, a start-up company affiliated with the University of Arkansas. The award is the result of the company’s patent-pending process to increase the efficiency of solar cells.

The award could ultimately lead to new high tech manufacturing jobs in Northwest Arkansas.

Silicon Solar Solutions received $500,000 for the award, which is targeted for early-stage assistance to help startup companies commercialize their inventions while encouraging private sector investment.

Silicon Solar Solutions, a Genesis Technology Incubator client at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, is the first company in the state to receive a SunShot Incubator Award.

“This is the most prestigious and competitive award a solar startup can receive,” said Douglas Hutchings, chief executive officer of Silicon Solar Solutions. “Our goal is to prove our technology on industrial cells and work towards Arkansas-based manufacturing of the equipment.”

Hutchings founded Silicon Solar Solutions in 2008 while a graduate student at the University of Arkansas. In January, the company submitted an application for a full patent on a self-aligned hydrogenated selective emitter for N-type solar cells.

The emitter, invented by Seth Shumate, chief technology officer for Silicon Solar Solutions, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save an average-sized solar panel manufacturer $120 million annually, making the panels, and solar energy, more affordable for consumers, Hutchings said.

If successful, the emitter represents the single largest technology leap in solar power in 40 years, according to Hutchings. The tool will be marketed through Picasolar Inc., a sister company also located at the research park that shares the same senior management and board of directors as Silicon Solar Solutions.

Hutchings said the company’s next move is to raise $2 million from private investors or strategic partners. This would allow his company to partner with an equipment manufacturer to prove if the technology can be scaled for production in the marketplace.

“We’ve proven the process in the lab using low-cost manufacturing techniques and we’re confident the process will work in the marketplace.”

The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to drive innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Department of Energy supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour.

Since 2007, more than 50 American start-ups have participated in the SunShot Incubator Program – attracting more than $1.7 billion in private sector backing, or nearly $18 for every $1 of government support. The Energy Department is investing more than $12 million across 17 companies to help commercialize a wide range of technologies and services– from online tools that can map a rooftop’s solar potential in seconds to automated installation systems for utility scale photovoltaic plants.

“The tremendous growth in the U.S. solar industry over the past few years is helping to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that protects our air and water and provides affordable clean energy to more and more Americans,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Responsible development of all of America’s rich energy resources is an important part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and will help ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation.”

Hutchings earned a doctorate in microelectronics-photonics at the University of Arkansas in 2010. Shumate is a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program, offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

MicroEP Student Recognized by the Department of Energy

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire July 05, 2013

Drew DeJarnette, a doctoral candidate in themicroelectronics-photonics program, received second place in the Innovation in Fuel Cycle research awards in June. This award, which is sponsored by the Office of Fuel Cycle Technologies of the U.S. Department of Energy, recognizes outstanding student publications in the fuel cycle field.

DeJarnette's winning paper is titled "Spectral patterns underlying polarization-enhanced diffractive interference are distinguishable by complex trigonometry." Justin Norman, an undergraduate student, was a contributing author, and Keith Roper, assistant director of the microelectronics-photonics graduate program and DeJarnette's faculty mentor, was the principal investigator.

These researchers have developed methods to design and build ordered arrays of metal nanoparticles that can be used in many different kinds of sensors and detectors. The nanoparticles, which are arranged on a ceramic surface, are spaced about 600 to 1000 nanometers apart—the wavelength of optical and near-infrared light. Researchers can shine a light through the array and measure its response with a spectrometer. A fluid passing over the top of the array will change the response of the light, allowing researchers to detect different chemical properties of the fluid.

This system was recognized by the Office of Fuel Cycle Technologies because of its possible application in the field of nuclear science. For example, DeJarnette explained that the sensor could be used to determine the amount of nuclear waste in water. The sensor has many other possible applications, including several in the field of healthcare. It could be used to detect biomarkers in blood, or to measure blood sugar levels. Roper's research group is currently optimizing the arrays for these and other possible applications.

"I am so pleased with Drew's achievement," said Roper, who holds the Charles W. Oxford Endowed Professorship in Emerging Technologies in the Ralph E. Martin department of chemical engineering. "He is very deserving of this award, and it's a great reflection of the quality of students the graduate programs on this campus can attract."

The microelectronics-photonic program is an interdisciplinary program in the College of Engineering and the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

University Receives Increase in State Funding, Monies From General Improvement Fund

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire June 07, 2013

The University of Arkansas saw an increase in its state-funded appropriation and received significant allocations from the state General Improvement Fund during the recent legislative session of the Arkansas General Assembly.

The session ended on May 17. The state appropriation for the University of Arkansas for fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1, totaled just more than $125.5 million — a 2.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year and the largest percentage increase since 2008.

The increase in state funding allowed the university to seek the lowest percentage tuition-and-fee increase for the forthcoming academic year among the four-year undergraduate universities in the University of Arkansas System.

"The General Assembly's recent state appropriation increase, as recommended by Governor [Mike] Beebe, made it possible for us to adopt the smallest tuition increase in several years and to provide pay increases to our faculty and staff," said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. "We are grateful for this year's increase, the first of significance in six years, which is helping us maintain a balance between affordability and high quality."

The university will also get $3 million for its general use through the law establishing a General Improvement Fund, which sets aside various amounts to state legislators and the governor for special projects funded with surplus cash in the state government's budget.

Richard Hudson, vice chancellor for government and community relations, said he was pleased with the appropriation increase, in light of the fact that legislators approved tax cuts that are projected to lower state revenue by more than $100 million in fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

"We are also appreciative of the $3 million in General Improvement Funds, which materialized late in the session and which we hadn't anticipated," Hudson said.

Three U of A entities will receive significant funding through the General Improvement Fund.

Through Act 894, Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs was designated to receive $500,000, with Sen. Bill Sample allocating $490,000 and Sen. Alan Clark allocating $10,000. The 210-acre botanical garden, which has a chapel, pavilion and many other features, is open to the public and is part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture.

Through Act 385, Sen. Uvalde Lindsey provided $250,000 for the Nanoscale Material Science and Engineering Building. The 76,000-square-foot facility, which opened in September 2011, houses the university's Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering — which is comprised of faculty and students in departments across campus working in nanoscale research — and the university's microelectronics-photonics graduate program.

Through Act 790, the World Trade Center Arkansas — an international economic outreach enterprise embedded within the university — will receive a total of $245,000 from 10 legislators. Sen. Jon Woods provided $50,000; $25,000 each were Sens. Missy Irvin, Bart Hester and Michael Lamoureux and Jonathan Dismang and Reps. Davy Carter, Micah Neal and Duncan Baird. Lindsey, whose senate district includes the U of A, and Sen. Bruce Maloch each contributed $10,000.

The legislature, through Act 234, restructured the state's lottery-funded Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship program. Starting this fall, first-time recipients of the scholarship would receive $2,000 as freshmen, $3,000 as sophomores, $4,000 as juniors and $5,000 as seniors at four-year universities.

Until the law took effect in early March, students who were first awarded the scholarships in the 2010-11 school year each received $5,000 a year to attend a four-year school. Those who were first awarded the scholarships in the 2011-12 or 2012-13 school years get $4,500 a year at universities.

Hudson said university leaders wanted to avoid a reduction in the amount traditional first-year students would receive.

"Legislators would reject most everything that we would counter with because lottery revenue has fallen," he said. "We would come up with a beautiful plan but they would say, 'Fine, that will work for about three years until we go right back in the same boat. There's not enough money to do it that way.'"

A law that also drew statewide attention was Act 226, which provides that full-time faculty and staff at colleges and universities who hold concealed handgun permits may carry such weapons on campus — provided that the institution's board of trustees does not annually opt out of the law. Trustees of the University of Arkansas System, acting on a recommendation from system President Donald Bobbitt, voted to opt out of the law at their meeting in May.

Another law affecting the U of A community is Act 312, which prohibits the use of public funds for supporting or opposing ballot measures. A violation of the law is a misdemeanor and leads to termination.

"We as employees are very limited in what we can do," Hudson said. "We'll have to be very careful. If we wanted to campaign for or against a ballot measure, we'd have to take vacation time, or just talk about the impact and not say how to vote."

Picasolar Wins Banana Republic Grad Student Challenge

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire May 14, 2013

Picasolar, a graduate student business plan competition team from the University of Arkansas that has developed a patent-pending process to improve the efficiency of solar cells, has won the inaugural Banana Republic Grad Student Challenge.

Picasolar was notified of its win and the $10,000 award that comes with it on Tuesday evening, a day after the team took the MIT NSTAR Clean Energy Prize in Boston and a total of $250,000 in prize money.

The team has won $313,500 this spring in graduate business plan competitions. Its technology, a hydrogen selective emitter invented by team member and chief technology officer Seth Shumate, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save an average-sized solar panel manufacturer $120 million annually, and make the panels, and solar energy, more affordable for consumers.

Banana Republic, in partnership with Net Impact, asked graduate students to submit a traditional business plan or an idea that would demonstrate a vision for creating jobs in the United States. Net Impact is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that empowers a new generation to work within and beyond business for a sustainable future.

“The judges found the Picasolar plan both comprehensive and insightful with an innovative technology supported by detailed analysis and measured assumptions,” said Joanna Spoth of Net Impact.

It’s the fourth competition victory for Picasolar since the team formed in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Carol Reeves, who holds the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

In addition to the prize money, Picasolar was awarded a new wardrobe from Banana Republic.

Picasolar includes:

  • Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
  • Trish Flanagan, who is graduating this spring with a dual master of business administration and public service degree offered by the Walton College and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock
  • Matthew Young, a doctoral student in electrical engineering
  • Michael Miller, who is graduating this spring with a master of accountancy from Walton College.

U of A's Picasolar Team Wins MIT Clean Energy Prize, $250,000

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire May 08, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Picasolar, a graduate business plan competition team at the University of Arkansas, beat more than a dozen other semifinalists to take the MIT NSTAR Clean Energy Prize this week in Boston. The team won for a business plan built around a patent-pending process developed by one of its members to improve the efficiency of solar cells.

The prize came with a cash award of $150,000. Picasolar won an additional $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy. Cash-wise, it is the university’s biggest win in a graduate business competition since the U of A began fielding teams a decade ago.

“We’ve made some extraordinary contacts in Boston and we are excited about the momentum we are building,” said graduate student Trish Flanagan, president of Picasolar. “We are grateful for the support of Dr. Carol Reeves and other mentors at the University of Arkansas.”

Picasolar has won more than $300,000 this spring in graduate business plan competitions. The team’s technology, a hydrogen selective emitter invented by team member and chief technology officer Seth Shumate, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save an average-sized solar panel manufacturer $120 million annually, and and make the panels, and solar energy, more affordable for consumers.

“This win is the culmination of a year of incredibly hard work,” said team mentor Carol Reeves, U of A’s associate vice provost for entrepreneurship. “I cannot say enough about this team or about their technology.  It is amazing that an Arkansas doctoral student developed one of the biggest breakthroughs in solar technology in decades.  It shows what we are capable of accomplishing, and the entire world will benefit.”

Jim Rankin, the university’s vice provost for research and economic development, said, “This is exciting news for the University of Arkansas. Winning this prestigious competition reinforces the reputation of the university as a national educational leader in entrepreneurship. It also shows how graduate students from different disciplines can work cohesively to advance a successful business plan.”

Picasolar includes:

  • Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
  • Flanagan, a student in the concurrent master’s program in business administration and public service offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock
  • Matthew Young, a doctoral student in electrical engineering
  • Michael Miller, a master of accountancy student in Walton College.

Picasolar will compete at the Tri-State Governor's Cup in Las Vegas May 20-22, and a national Department of Energy competition in June.

It’s the third competition victory for Picasolar since the team formed in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Reeves, who holds the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Walton College.

Picasolar took first place and $20,000 at the 2013 IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition in January at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. It won the $25,000 graduate-division first place prize in Little Rock in April at the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competition.

Under the guidance of Reeves, the university has fielded competitive graduate student teams at state, regional, national, and international business plan competitions since 2002. During the past decade, students have won more than $1.7 million in cash at these competitions. 

University of Arkansas Sweeps Top Three Graduate Division Spots at Governor's Cup

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire April 12, 2013

Picasolar, a team from the University of Arkansas that has developed a patent-pending process to improve the efficiency of solar cells, took the $25,000 first place prize Wednesday in the graduate division at the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competition.

Picasolar led a U of A sweep of the top three places in the graduate division in the 13th annual competition. HomeDx finished second and won $15,000. EverClean Coating Solutions LLC was third and took home $10,000, in addition to winning $5,000 for taking first in graduate division for the most innovative business plan.

This year, 47 teams submitted business plans from 13 colleges and universities from across Arkansas for a chance to win a share of the $154,000 prize pool. Prizes in the competition were awarded at a luncheon at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. 

Picasolar and HomeDx will compete against the top two graduate teams from Nevada and Oklahoma for the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Award in May, where they will be competing to win a share of the $118,000 prize pool.

The U of A has won the graduate division at the Governor’s Cup 10 consecutive years, and placed the top three teams in the graduate division in three of the last four years.

Under the guidance of Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship, the university has fielded competitive graduate student teams at state, regional, national, and international business plan competitions since 2002. During the past decade, students have won nearly $1.4 million in cash at these competitions. 

Picasolar’s technology, a hydrogen selective emitter invented by team member and chief technology officer Seth Shumate, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save manufacturers an estimated $5 million to $10 million annually per production line.

It was Picasolar’s second win this year. It took the grand prize and $20,000 at the IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition in January the University of Western Ontario. Earlier this month, Picasolar was a runner-up and won $2,500 at the annual New Venture Championship, hosted by the University of Oregon. The team left Little Rock Wednesday afternoon for Houston, where it is competing in the Rice Business Plan Competition.

Trish Flanagan, team member and president of Picasolar, said the team’s solar efficiency technology is drawing interest from investors.

“We’re seeing our hard work paying off on the competition circuit, but what we’re also really excited about is that we have real business development potential,” Flanagan said.

Picasolar includes Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences; Flanagan, a student in the concurrent master’s program in business administration and public service offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock; Matthew Young, a doctoral student in electrical engineering; and Michael Miller, a master of accountancy student in Walton College.

HomeDx, which would provide over-the-counter diagnostic tests for influenza, food intolerance, sexually transmitted diseases and other infectious diseases, is comprised of master of business administration students Max Mahler, Audra Mazzeo, Calvin Smith and Will Swearingen; and master of accounting student Daniel Cherry.

EverClean Coating Solutions LLC has created a self-cleaning coating technology for solar panels that improves efficiency. The team members are Bill Ryan and Manish Phogat, master in business administration students in the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Corey Thompson, a doctoral student in the College of Engineering. Ryan is in the executive M.B.A. program.

EverClean Coating Solutions will be competing in the final rounds at the Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge, scheduled for April 18-19 at the company’s home office in Bentonville. The winning team will receive a cash prize of $20,000.

All three teams formed in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Reeves, holder of the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Walton College.

Solar Efficiency Plan Nets Picasolar Third Place in Competition

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire March 28, 2013

Picasolar, a team from the University of Arkansas that has developed a patent-pending process to improve the efficiency of solar cells, took third place at one of Canada’s premier graduate student business plan competitions.

Picasolar also won the elevator pitch contest at the Stu Clark Investment Competition on March 23, hosted by the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. The team won $5,000 for finishing third and $1,000 for winning the elevator pitch.

Picasolar’s process, invented by team member Seth Shumate, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save manufacturers an estimated $5 million to $10 million annually per production line.

It marked the second time Picasolar finished in the top three at a competition in Canada. In January, Picasolar took the $20,000 grand prize at the 2013 IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition, held Jan. 25-26 at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

The team is comprised of Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences; Trish Flanagan, a student in the concurrent master’s program in business administration and public service offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock; Matthew Young, a doctoral student in electrical engineering; and Michael Miller, a master of accountancy student in Walton College.

The team is one of four from the U of A that are competing this spring in graduate student business plan competitions, and the university has advanced to the finals in each competition in which it has competed. The teams formed in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Carol Reeves, holder of the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Walton College.

The University of Arkansas has fielded competitive graduate student teams at state, regional, national, and international business plan competitions since 2002. During the past decade, students have almost $1.4 million in cash at these competitions.

Louis to Receive Diplomas from U of A and Ecole Centrale Paris

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire March 18, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Lydie Louis, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, expected to spend three months in France studying nanostructures at Ecole Centrale Paris, a premier school focused on science and technology.

She ended up spending two years in the City of Light, earning enough credits to allow her to graduate this spring with a dual doctorate in microelectronics and photonics from both the University of Arkansas and Ecole Centrale Paris.

Louis is the first student in the interdisciplinary microelectronics-photonics graduate program to earn a dual doctorate. She started her graduate studies in Fayetteville in 2004 and earned a master’s degree in microelectronics-photonics in 2006. She studied at Ecole Centrale Paris from 2008 to 2009 and part of 2010.

Louis, who would like to pursue a research position at a national laboratory or in private industry, said she imagines her feeling of relief when she receives her diplomas.

“I will be very, very happy because it took a very long time,” she said with a smile.

Faculty at both institutions developed a joint curriculum for Louis, said physicist Laurent Bellaiche, her faculty adviser at the U of A. The National Science Foundation supported the collaboration through grants, and Ecole Centrale Paris also provided a stipend, Bellaiche said.

Ecole Centrale Paris is comparable in reputation to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bellaiche said.

“Lydie has been working on nanostructures, either modeling them — the work mostly done here — or by growing them and characterizing them, which was done in France,” Bellaiche said. “I think that it was very important for her to learn both simulations and experiments in nanoscience, a topic that is of particular interest.”

Louis works with ferroelectric materials at the nanometer scale. Ferroelectric materials are used in medical ultrasound to examine fetuses and internal organs, in military sonar for underwater navigation and detection, and in cell phones. These materials have a spontaneous charge separation that allows them to generate an electric field when their shape is changed — thus mechanical energy becomes electrical energy.

“In my experimental work, I synthesize one-dimensional nanowires or nanotubes,” she said. “I grow a ferroelectric inside these nanostructures, building the material and shaping it.”

In Ecole Centrale Paris’ doctoral program, Louis worked in the laboratory and collaborated on other theoretical studies. She completed her course work and doctoral candidacy exams at the University of Arkansas, and she had to report to advisers and faculty committees at each campus. Her advisers at Ecole Centrale Paris include Brahim Dkhil and Gregory Geneste.

Louis was born to Haitian parents and grew up in the tiny island of Guadeloupe, part of the French Antilles. French is her native language, which made her a good candidate to study in Paris, she said.

“I knew I wouldn’t need much language preparation to start my studies there,” she said. “It was a great opportunity.”

When she immigrated to the United States in 1997, she spoke no English. But she was very good in science. While in high school in Guadeloupe she passed Advanced Placement tests in both calculus and physics. Louis earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the City College of New York in 2004.

In her last year at the city college, she became a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar, an NSF-funded program that assists universities and colleges in increasing and diversifying the number of students successfully completing high quality degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

In the spring of 2004, she attended the Stokes Alliance national conference in New Orleans, where the University of Arkansas was sponsoring some of the poster competitions. While at the awards dinner, she happened to sit next to Ken Vickers, director of the microelectronics-photonics program at the U of A.

“While I was speaking to him, they called my name because I had won the poster competition in engineering,” Louis said. “He was frankly amazed that we had randomly chosen seats next to each other, as he told me that because I had won first place I would be coming to the University of Arkansas for a visit, all charges paid. I visited and really liked it.”

Louis holds memberships in Eta Kappa Nu, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society; the Institute of Electrical and Electric Engineers; and the National Society of Black Engineers.

University-Affiliated Business Applies for Patent for Solar-Cell Efficiency Technology

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire February 18, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Silicon Solar Solutions Inc., a Genesis Technology Incubator client at the University of Arkansas, has developed a new technology that could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent, thereby potentially saving manufacturers millions of dollars in production costs.

The start-up company at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park has submitted an application for a full patent on a self-aligned hydrogenated selective emitter for N-type solar cells, moving the patent from “provisional” to “pending,” said Douglas Hutchings, chief executive officer of Silicon Solar Solutions.

“If successful, this approach represents the single largest technology leap in solar since 1974,” Hutchings said. “We have demonstrated it on lab-scale cells already. We’re all excited.”

Seth Shumate, a graduate student at the U of A and senior scientist at Silicon Solar Solutions, invented the emitter. In December, the National Science Foundation awarded the company a $150,000 small-business grant to continue its development.

The technology is at the heart of a joint venture being developed by Silicon Solar Solutions and Picasolar, a graduate business competition team at the university that includes Shumate as a member. On Jan. 26, Picasolar took first place at the 2013 IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition and took home a cash award of $20,000.

Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program at the university, uses a vacuum chamber in a laboratory at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park to conduct his experiments. The chamber has a tungsten filament, similar to a light bulb, which heats to 3,452 degrees Fahrenheit. When hydrogen is introduced to the chamber it hits the surface of a tungsten filament, separating the hydrogen atoms.

“Those atoms then go into the solar cell and do their magic,” Shumate said.

Selective emitter technology for solar cells has so far involved complex processes with at least two or more steps. The technology innovation put forward by Silicon Solar Solutions is a single-step method for creating a selective emitter by using atomic hydrogen to deactivate impurities in the emitter. It increases solar power conversion efficiency and reduces the amount of silver needed to produce high-efficiency solar cells, thereby lowering material costs.

The National Science Foundation Phase I grant came through the Small Business Innovation Research Program, which allows federal agencies to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector by strengthening small businesses that meet federal research and development needs. The program also is intended to increase the commercial application of federally supported research results.

Silicon Solar Solutions will raise $60,000 of outside investment for the emitter to secure an additional $30,000 from the National Science Foundation. Hutchings said it hopes to receive a $750,000 Phase II grant in January 2014 to demonstrate the lab results on industrial-quality cells and start implementing the technology in existing solar-cell manufacturing lines.

University of Arkansas Team Wins $20,000 for Solar Efficiency Invention

Reference: University of Arkansas Newswire January 31, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A team from the University of Arkansas that has developed a patent-pending process to improve the efficiency of solar cells took the grand prize at one of Canada’s premier graduate student business plan competitions.

Picasolar earned first place at the 2013 IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition, held Jan. 25-26 at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. The team received a cash award of $20,000 and an invitation to the Venture Labs Investment Competition at the University of Texas at Austin in May, which bills itself as the “Super Bowl of business competitions.”

Picasolar’s process, invented by team member Seth Shumate, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save manufacturers an estimated $5 million to $10 million annually per production line.

“Picasolar is a fantastic addition to the very impressive group of teams from the University of Arkansas winning international business plan competitions,” said Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship who advises Picasolar and two other U of A teams that competed at Ivey.

“I almost always forbid my students from using the word ‘revolutionary’ to describe their technology,” Reeves said. “However, Picasolar can honestly make that claim in regard to the impact their technology can have on the solar industry. The judges, some of whom were from Silicon Valley, were blown away by their technology and their presentation.”

The Ivey competition offers students an opportunity to present innovative business plans to potential investors, while providing investors with an advance look at up-and-coming entrepreneurs and new ventures. The U of A was the only university from the United States invited to the final round, which featured nine teams divided into three brackets. The winner of each bracket advanced to final round.

The Picasolar team include Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences; Trish Flanagan, a student in the concurrent master’s program in business administration and public service offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock; Matthew Young, a doctoral student in electrical engineering; and Michael Miller, a master of accountancy student in Walton College.

ParadigMed, another team from the U of A, also advanced to the final round. Stephen Kayode and Tara Mink, both in the managerial MBA program in Walton College, founded ParadigMed, which manufactures a cost-effective device for adult male circumcision in an outpatient setting. It addresses challenges associated with reducing the heterosexual transmission rate of HIV globally, primarily in Africa.

HomeDx, a third U of A team represented by managerial MBA students Calvin Smith, Max Mahler and Will Swearingen, nearly made the final round, Reeves said. HomeDx is working to develop the first over-the-counter influenza test that will be distributed through large retail channels.

All three teams formed in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Reeves, holder of the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Walton College.

It was the second consecutive year a team from the U of A won the competition. Learning DifferentiatED, which has created a company that improves retention and success rates of adults preparing for the General Education Development test, took the top spot in 2012.