Startup with new technology enabling water-sustainable thermoelectric power wins 2018 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition

May 15, 2018

Infinite Cooling, a startup that has created patent-pending technology at MIT to enable water-sustainable thermoelectric power, beat out seven teams of finalists to take home the Robert P. Goldberg $100,000 grand prize Monday night during the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition’s Launch Finale held on the MIT campus.

Currently, power plants are one of the United States’ largest water consumers, using approximately 161 billion gallons of freshwater per day, which totals 39% of all U.S. freshwater withdrawals. Power plants typically use evaporative cooling, where a portion of the water is evaporated to cool the remaining water. The vapor is then released into the atmosphere, where it forms a plume. New water needs to be frequently added to the cooling system to account for the lost water vapor. The system’s remaining water becomes more concentrated in salts and pollutants, which needs to be treated at an additional cost.

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Enter Infinite Cooling, whose patent-pending technology uses electrical fields to recapture up to 80 percent of the water droplets in plumes that would normally escape from cooling towers of power plants through evaporation. The resulting water from the collected steam is then recycled back into the cooling system. By recapturing water vapor plumes and making cooling towers more of a closed system, Infinite Cooling’s technology could decrease power plant water consumption by as much as 30 percent. This translates into savings of millions of gallons of water, and millions of dollars, each year.

Team members say Infinite Cooling technology could have a significant environmental and economic impact worldwide, particularly in the U.S., which has more than 7,000 power plants across the country, and in China, India, and Europe. Team members are:

Co-founders Maher Damak and Karim Khalil are PhD candidates in the Varanasi Research group in MIT’s department of Mechanical Engineering. Damak and Khalil were recognized as creative disruptors in the energy field in last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30.

Derek Warnick, COO, graduated from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2009 where he focused on sustainable energy and energy finance. He previously served as CFO of FGE Power.

Co-Founder and Chairman Kripa Varanasi is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2002 and 2004, and his M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2002. Prior to joining MIT, Dr. Varanasi was a lead researcher and project leader at the GE Global Research Center.

To date, the MIT $100K has facilitated the birth of more than 160 companies, which have gone on to raise $1.3 billion in venture capital and build $16 billion in market capitalization. More than 30 MIT $100K startups have been acquired by major companies, such as Oracle and Merck. Over 4,600 people are currently employed by MIT $100K companies. Recent IPOs include Akamai (AKAM), net.Genesis (NTG), and C-Bridge Internet Solutions (CBIS).

Since its debut in 1990 as the MIT $10K Entrepreneurship Competition, it has grown to include three independent contests – Pitch, Accelerate, and Launch – from September through May. Each contest focuses on developing specific founding skills. For each semi-finalist contender, the MIT $100K brings together a network of resources that includes mentorship from venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and attorneys; media exposure; prototyping funds; business plan feedback; and discounted services. Altogether, more than $300K in non-dilutive prize money is awarded to help these new ventures accelerate.

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