Greenhouse gases and artificial decay are the targets of a USC allure startup.
Postdoctoral bookish and Catapower Inc. administrator Zhiyao (Yao) Lu describes the company’s technology as a atomic apprentice that turns vegetable oil into renewable fuels and biodegradable plastic.
“We started as a aggregation of scientists arrest two of the world’s best arresting ecology challenges — the adamant acceleration of greenhouse gases and the agglomeration of artificial decay in the oceans,” Lu said, apropos to well-documented artificial patches the admeasurement of Australia now amphibian in the Pacific Ocean. Approaching the botheration as a chemist, he capital to accouterment both problems at once.
Catapower’s drive was underscored in March back Lu’s presentation becoming the top 2018 USC Wrigley Sustainability Prize of $7,000. The anniversary antagonism promotes business concepts that advice the environment. In weeks arch up to the competition, acceptance drafted business affairs and acerbic their pitches while assigned advisers advice them about-face their account into action.
Lu was one of seven finalists to present his analysis to a console of arch technology and science experts at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. “I was actual nervous,” he said.
On the heels of that success, Catapower was called for the National Science Foundation Addition Corps (I-Corps) affairs to apprentice how to run a startup, including chump acquisition, incorporation, licensing and fundraising. USC is home to the Southern California I-Corps hub, one of eight centers nationally, accordingly administered by the California Institute of Technology and UCLA. The affairs aims to advance civic addition by auspicious the adaptation of account and analysis above the class for amusing and bread-and-er impact.
As allotment of the accelerated I-Corps program, Lu hit the alley in August with his business accomplice and adviser, Accessory Assistant Travis Williams, to allocution with abeyant customers, ally and investors. Funding would accredit Catapower to abound from lab and test-tube date to article abundant larger. The founders said the aggregation is in negotiations for ample affairs to arrange its technology at refinery calibration in 2019.
Although it ability assume like things are accident quickly, Lu acicular out that he and added USC allure acceptance accept been alive agilely for added than bristles years to get this far.
“After developing and testing abounding ancestors of altered catalysts, we assuredly accustomed at this one — a atomic machine,” said Lu, formally the company’s arch technology officer. “It works millions of times with aerial precision, actual selectively converting the glycerol decay into lactate, while bearing biodiesel.”
Williams, who encouraged Lu to accouterment the commercialization claiming on top of his postdoctoral responsibilities, serves as bookish adviser, co-founder and abstruse adviser for the company. Several Williams students, including Ivan Demianets, Valeriy Cherepakhin and Talya Kapenstein, accept additionally participated.
Used affable oil from bartering and domiciliary fryers is a anatomy of biomass that Catapower intends to upgrade into biodiesel and lactic acid. The first product is the renewable ammunition accepted as biodiesel. It’s accepted as an environmentally friendly, low-carbon fuel, but its boundless use in abundant equipment, airplanes, trucks and ability generators has been balked by its aerial bulk of production. The new technology overcomes the bulk obstacle affordably and sustainably, Lu said. And any blazon of vegetable oil can be acclimated for the advance process. “So now we accept a action that makes two admired articles and no waste.”
The additional artefact band harnesses the polymer anatomy of lactic acid, a biodegradable artificial broadly acclimated in disposables and biodegradable medical devices. The salts of lactic acerbic are acclimated as environmentally amiable antimicrobials in a ambit of articles from aliment to cosmetics and are admired article chemicals.
The Williams lab is alive with the USC Wrigley Institute for Ecology Studies, which operates on Catalina Island and the University Park Campus, to actualize a affirmation activity that provides applied and educational benefits.
“From our perspective, actuality able to clarify biodiesel actuality on an island saves us the agitation of addition how to get rid of acclimated affable oil and additionally reduces the bulk of agent ammunition we charge to accompany assimilate the island,” said John Heidelberg, an accessory assistant of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences and accessory administrator of the Wrigley Institute.
Lu, who grew up in northwestern China, advised biologic sciences in academy afore advancing to USC to acquire his PhD in chemistry.
“I’ve consistently capital to accomplish contributions to association by convalescent people’s affection of activity and anticipation I’d assignment in developing new medications that could advice hundreds of bags of people.” As time passed, he saw the claiming in a altered light.
“I thought, why are so bodies accepting sick?” he said. “We are communicable the environment, which is harming people’s health. I accomplished there is a abundant bigger problem, the ecology abasement that threatens the acceptable approaching of our society.”
More belief about: Chemistry, Research, Startups, Sustainability
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