UCF Spinoff Company Awarded NSF Grant Aimed at Commercialization

UCF Spinoff Company Awarded NSF Grant Aimed at Commercialization

A University of Central Florida spinoff company has been awarded a highly competitive national grant, which it will use to develop a prototype device that could help manufacturers of electronic devices significantly reduce their costs. This could lead to less expensive and smaller size devices for consumers.

Nanoscience Professor Jayan Thomas and UCF electrical engineering student Joe Sleppy launched Capacitech Energy LLC, to help commercialize one of their lab discoveries. They are developing innovative customizable cable capacitors, a necessary component for electronic circuits. Their technology would make it feasible for device manufacturers to streamline purchase of capacitors and save on both storage space and expense.

The team submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research /Small Business Technology Transfer Program, which awarded Capacitech $225,000 in phase I funding to encourage the next-stage in commercialization of the product.

“Our supercapacitor technique has been patented and we have clearly shown its effectiveness,” Thomas said. “With the help of this award we are moving towards the goal of making it manufacture-friendly.”

Thomas developed the technique of building a copper wire-based capacitor that enmeshes all functions of a capacitor in one wire, eliminating the need for sometimes hundreds of different capacitors now necessary in a given device.

Capacitors perform important tasks such as streamlining power supply by reducing voltage spikes and typically manufacturers keep many different sizes of capacitors in stock to be certain that they have the size required for each role a capacitor plays in their product.

Capacitech is working to enable an electronics manufacturer to buy a spool of the cable capacitor which they could then cut at different lengths (customizing the capacitor) to meet their needs, which would reduce unit costs and inventory cost. This is an important step towards miniaturizing many of the existing electronic devices.

Thomas said that once the prototype is complete next year, the company will compete for a Phase II NSF award of up to $750,000 to move toward full-scale mass manufacturing.

Thomas and Sleppy both credit UCF’s suite of entrepreneurial support services – specifically the Office of Research and Commercialization’s I-Corps program and the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, with helping them grow the business to full commercialization mode.

UCF is one of 37 universities nationwide that was selected by the National Science Foundation as an I-Corps site in 2015.  I-Corps is one of NSF’s signature programs to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to commercialization.

Thomas’ invention earned UCF an R & D 100 innovation award in 2015. CapacitechEnergy LLC  has placed second in the regional Department of Energy Megawatt competition and has been accepted to the Firespring Fund Accelerator Program and VentureWell E-Team program.

To learn more about the NSF SBIR/STTR program, click here.

Thomas has joint appointments in CREOL and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.