Four Colorado State University Researchers Honored at Colorado Cleantech Industry Awards on Thursday

Note to Reporters: Photos of the honorees are available by contacting Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336.

Four Colorado State University researchers in chemistry and engineering were honored today by the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association as “Research Rockstars.”

Chuck Henry and Amy Prieto, both professors in chemistry, and W.S. Sampath and Bryan Willson, professors in mechanical engineering, received the honors at the organization’s inaugural “Celebrate Cleantech Research” event at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature.

Sampath, co-founder of Abound Solar, also gave the keynote speech at the event.

“In recent years, Colorado State faculty have filed record invention disclosures, which has contributed significantly to the transfer of that technology to Colorado businesses,” Tim Reeser, executive director of Cenergy, the business arm of the university’s Clean Energy Supercluster that aims to bridge the gap between clean energy research and the marketplace. “We are proud of their efforts and look forward to sharing emerging innovations.”

“These faculty members represent the innovative approaches occurring in research labs at Colorado State that demonstrate how advances in basic research are leading directly to new technologies, new businesses and job creation,” said Bill Farland, vice president for Research.

Finalists were chosen from Colorado State University, the University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines in eight categories tied to the leading industry sectors outlined in CCIA’s 2010 “Cleantech Action Plan.” The categories are identified by CCIA as the leading cleantech sectors for Colorado.

The honorees and their categories:

Chuck Henry (Water)

Henry, an associate professor of chemistry, has been at Colorado State since 2002. He is co-founder and CEO of Advanced MicroLabs LLC, which was formed to commercialize a low-cost, rapid “lab-on-a-chip” invention that would rapidly test blood for signs of diabetes and cardiovascular disease – methods that could save patients and physicians significant time and money. To date, AML has raised more than $3 million in grant funding and is currently working to bring an innovative on-line monitoring sensor to the market in the industrial cleanwater space.

Henry is a consultant and collaborator for Legacy Biosciences, a small pharmaceutical formulations company based in Loveland and Boulder-based Crystal Diagnostics, which is developing an innovative technology to detect pathogenic bacteria in waste and recreational waters. He also works with Lumiere on developing a new technology for rapid detection of food borne pathogens. In his nine-year tenure at CSU, Henry has submitted eight invention disclosures.

Amy Prieto (Energy Storage)

Prieto joined Colorado State in 2005 as an assistant professor of chemistry. She is part of the university’s Clean Energy Supercluster commercialization arm, Cenergy. In 2009, Prieto co-founded Cenergy’s first startup company, Prieto Battery Inc., a company expected to commercialize a non-toxic battery technology up to 1,000 times more powerful and 10 times longer lasting and cheaper than traditional batteries. The development of this technology could revolutionize the transportation, communication and energy storage industries.

In March, Prieto was named the 2011 ExxonMobil Solid State Chemistry Faculty Fellow – a prestigious honor given to one scientist who is chosen each year out of a national field. The Solid State Chemistry Faculty Fellowship recognizes a young scientist who has made substantial contributions to solid-state chemistry and has the potential to emerge as a leader in the field. The award is administered by the Division of Inorganic Chemistry of the American Chemical Society.

W.S. Sampath (Solar)

Sampath and his colleagues Al Enzenroth and Kurt Barth began to investigate low-cost photovoltaic solutions – focusing on thin-film cadmium telluride technology – in Sampath’s Materials Engineering Laboratory at CSU in the early 1990s. They formed a spinoff, now called Abound Solar, in 2007 with the support of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. In 2008, Abound attracted $104 million in venture capital – more than any other Colorado company that year. The company now employs more than 300 people.

Sampath now leads a $2.5 million solar research-and-development center in partnership with industry to explore next-generation solar technology funded through the National Science Foundation Industry and University Cooperative Research Program. Sampath, PPG Industries and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee also were recently awarded $3.1 million by the Department of Energy to reduce Cadmium Telluride module costs by 17 percent or under $1 per watt.

Bryan Willson (Clean Transportation)

Willson, engineering professor and director of the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory (EECL), has always conducted research with a strong emphasis on clean energy technology. He helped develop two-stroke engine retrofit technology for the 50 million to 100 million two-stroke engines used for transportation in Asia – work that directly addresses the source of the Asian brown cloud. The retrofit technology is a direct outgrowth of the direct injection technology developed at the lab for large bore natural gas pipeline engines.

He co-founded a non-profit company – Envirofit International – in 2003 to commercialize this technology. Envirofit continues to work with the EECL on developing cleaner burning biomass cookstoves for the developing world. Stoves are now being sold in India, Africa and South America. Willson now also serves as director of CSU’s Clean Energy Supercluster, using his experience launching Envirofit and Solix Biofuels as examples of how to maximize the impact of energy solutions developed in laboratories across campus.

Seven faculty members from Colorado State were nominated for the awards. Also selected as finalists were Ken Reardon, chemical and biological engineering professor in the Bio-Derived category; Brian Dunbar, professor of construction management in the Efficiency in the Built Environment category; and Morgan DeFoort, co-director of the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory in the Smart Grid category.

Previous CCIA award winners have included Abound Solar, a Colorado State spinoff, as High Impact Cleantech Company of the Year and Governor Bill Ritter as Political Advocate of the Year. Ritter now works within the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy.