School: Wake Forest University, Babcock Graduate School of Management
Team members: Claude Hou, Chang Chen, Zachary Denton, Geoffrey Goss
Concept: Nanotubes 100,000 times thinner than a human hair may hold the key to making cheaper and more durable batteries.
The silver and platinum nanotubes, developed by Wake Forest MBA student Claude Hou and his Filigree Nanotech team, would increase the surface area of metal available within batteries by a factor of 10,000 or more. Because the silver surface of batteries stores electrical charge, increasing this surface area boosts battery life and performance.
Forty billion batteries are produced and sold worldwide each year - a quickly growing market worth $73.6 billion last year. Filigree plans to start with a tiny slice of this market, focusing on the material application of its nanotubes in silver-zinc batteries and fuel cells.
Filigree's marketing plans include delivering free samples to potential customers. While the founders believe they are at least two years ahead of major competitors in the field of silver and platinum nanotube technology, the venture faces competition from manufacturers such as QuantumSphere of Santa Ana, Calif., and Shanghai Huzheng Nano Technology of Shanghai, China.
Timeline: Filigree is looking to the Small Business Innovation Research program for funding. Initially it plans to sell its product directly to second-tier battery makers - a group seen as underserved by current technology, easier to reach than larger players, and more eager to take the risk of implementing new technology. Filigree has already signed up ZPower of Camarillo, Calif., a maker of rechargeable silver-zinc batteries. - Ben Frumin
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