(Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) A team that wants to make batteries more environmentally friendly won $15,000 at a competition for environmental innovation at the University of Washington. MOtiF Materials invented a way to making batteries degrade less quickly over time. “If you can fix batteries, it has an impact on so many other clean energy technologies,” said , who founded MOtiF. Rasmussen, a doctoral student of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, said the broader aim of the project is to make next-generation materials and manufacture them in a way that is scalable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. She was drawn to the project as a way to use her mechanical engineering knowledge to create a process that helps the environment. “It’s something that everyone can get behind,” Rasmussen said. Specifically, she wants to find ways to synthesize a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) at scale without damaging the planet. A recent Scientific American article , saying they “are poised to be the defining material of the 21st century.” Rasmussen is securing intellectual property for the technology and working on a paper manuscript based on her work. She’s received grant funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and financial support through a fellowship with the Clean Energy Institute. MOtiF does not have a website yet. The team also includes graduate students of mechanical engineering Stuart Moore and Courtney Otani, as well as undergraduate student Molly Foley. The winners for the were selected by more than 150 entrepreneurs, investors and environmental advocates. $10,000 2nd Place Prize: Atomo Coffee (Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) What’s coffee without the beans? For , it’s a better cup o’ joe. The startup, which is rethinking how coffee is made from molecular level using naturally sustainable ingredients. Atomo launched a in February and has raised more than $25,000 so far. and are the co-founders of Atomo. Kleitsch is a tech vet who once worked at Amazon and currently leads entrepreneur workshops at the University of Washington. The second-place prize was sponsored by Herbert B. Jones Foundation. $5,000 3rd Place Prize: Chibage Chip (Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship) Biochemistry doctoral student Tamuka Chidyausiku invented a device called the Chibage Chip to help farmers detect when plants are thirsty. Chidyausiku is from Zimbabwe and wants farmers in developing nations to benefit from the device. In addition to winning the $5,000 third-place prize, which was sponsored by the Port of Seattle, Chibage Chip also won the $5,000 community impact prize. AeroSpec, which developed a way to monitor air pollution on a large scale, and NanoPrint, which is creating a zero-waste manufacturing process, both won $1,000 for the “Judges Also Really Liked” awards.
The Powerit team, from left to right: Chairman David Bluhm, Manufacturing Operations Director Bob Coyne, Research Scientist James Downar, Materials Chemist Dan Shaw, and CEO David Clark. (GeekWire Photos / Taylor Soper) As we’ve become more and more dependent on smartphones, keeping our devices charged up has become increasingly important. “Low-battery anxiety” , and according to some surveys, . It’s spawned the popularity of portable chargers, phone charging cases, and charging stations. That’s why a new innovation from Seattle startup is intriguing. The company has developed a charging device that is powered by air. The idea sounds like a stretch, but GeekWire saw it in action at the company’s new office on the bottom floor of the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood. When the small white circles are exposed to air, this device can start charging your smartphone. The zinc-air chemistry behind the technology, which is activated by simply pulling off an adhesive peel, is not necessarily new. It’s already used in high-end hearing aids and by the military. But Powerit has come up with a way that makes it easy to charge smartphones and other lithium ion-powered devices with a thin portable lightweight card-like product designed for one-time usage. The company is initially targeting adventurers traveling to “off-the-grid” areas and people attending all-day events with little access to power, such as concerts. Powerit CEO said the price for one charging device will be in the “single digit dollar” range and come down as production increases. The company has a larger vision to sell the device at convenience stores and as part of a subscription program. “Its core advantage is that it’s always ready to go,” Clark said. “It never needs to be charged in advance.” In that vein, it’s similar to solar-powered portable chargers. But those require direct sunlight, whereas Powerit’s product just needs air. The device provides one full charge for the newest smartphones and comes with a USB-C, USB-Micro, or Lightning connector. It is built with recyclable plastic, some of which is harvested from the ocean, and a zero-emissions production process. “It’s important to our customer that we fully embrace the environmentally-friendly and sustainable aspects, and really try to be a leader in that regard over time, particularly as it relates to taking plastic out of the ocean,” said Clark, who was previously a marketing executive at Seattle startup Blab. Powerit’s headquarters is located on the basement of the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood. Powerit has raised $4 million, including a recent $2 million round that closed earlier this month. , a serial entrepreneur who previously led companies such as Z2Live and DropForge Games, is helping back Powerit as chairman with other investors such as Varkain. Bluhm said there’s nothing like it in the market. He said the charger will be a “no-brainer” purchasing decision for consumers. “You won’t be forced to buy a $40 battery pack when you’re in a pinch running through the airport or at a concert or at a NASCAR race when you don’t know if your phone is going to make it, given what you’re doing,” he said. With more than 3 billion smartphone users , the total addressable market is massive. Powerit also sees opportunity in selling to specific industries such as medical or military. The company is exploring various revenue models, including selling advertising space on the device itself or partnering with event organizers. The device is “smart” and can collect data when connected to a smartphone. “We have the ability to deliver an engaging experience,” Bluhm said. Powerit has less than 10 employees working out of its HQ in Seattle that doubles as a test production lab. It partners with a larger scale manufacturer in Rochester, New York.
Today MWC Barcelona the SD Association unveiled microSD Express that will allow future mobile devices to consume and create content at even faster speeds. This new microSD card platform boosts incredible transfer speeds while consuming less energy used by previous formats. The new format will be available in the flavors of microSDHC Express, microSDXC Express and microSDUC Express. Like SD Express, microSD Express taps the PCIe interface to hit a maximum data transfer rate of 985 megabytes per second (MB/s). This is possible through the PCIe 3.1 and NVMe v1.3 specifications that live on a second row of pins. The SD Association expects the faster cards to consume less energy than traditional memory cards while still being backwards compatible. The fast data speeds could lead mobile device makers to rethink how they equip devices. Read and write speeds have long been a limiting factor for expandable memory, but with this new format, that’s backwards compatible, the data transfer happens nearly as quick as built-in memory. With 5G data and cameras pumping out huge files, expandable memory could make a comeback. Want more technical information about ? Learn more in our newest whitepaper: — SD Association (@SD_Association)