2017 iMatSci Innovators

This year, MRS welcomed 19 innovators to demonstrate their new materials-based technologies.  All technologies were judged, and the top three were awarded cash prizes based on the following criteria: clarity, presentation, value proposition, impact and scalability.


iMatSci Winners

First Place

Birgitt Boschitsch Stogin, Nan Sun, Jing Wang, Tak-Sing Wong, The Pennsylvania State University
Stick No More

Second Place (Tied)

Arthur Hirsch, Aaron Gerratt, Hadrien Michaud, Feeltronix
Stretch the Mechanical Limits of Electronics

Second Place (Tied)

Joseph Andrews, Jesko von Windheim, Aaron Franklin, Tyrata, Inc.
Tire Tread Wear Sensor


Quantum Sensors for the Semiconductor Industry and More—Qnami

QNAMI logo

Quantum Technologies
Magnetic imaging is used in a large variety of applications ranging from basic material science, to electronic device testing, to medical diagnostic. Cassical technologies fail on the nanometer scale, yet this scale corresponds to the size of today's transistors and memory bits. This is where proteins and DNA are. Qnami develops new sensors based on quantum technologies. Their products allow our customers to perform non-invasive magnetic imaging at the nanoscale in all types of environments. They provide the semiconductor industry with analytical tools for design testing and failure analysis and help researchers exploring new avenues in material and life sciences.

Mathieu Munsch, Felipe Favaro, Patrick Maletinsky
+41 61.207.3740 | +33 684.20.95.60


Scaled-up Ultra-Long Carbon Nanotubes for Ultimate Composites—INFRA Technology LLC

INFRA Technology LogoAerospace
INFRA Technology is an innovation company focused on development of new materials on the basis of both in-house R&D and university collaboration. The company operates offices in the USA (Houston, Texas) and Russia (Moscow). Composite catalysts for synthetic fuel production from gas have been the most publicized direction of activity up to date. Their presentation will open another direction of scaled-up ultra-long carbon nanotubes and materials on their basis. They receive the ultra-long nanotubes in the form of big spools, which is impossible with conventional short nanotubes. It paves a way for new amazing applications, from ropes and cables to lightweight construction composites. 

Watch a video of the demonstration »

Dmitry Popov, Vladimir Mordkovich. Ilya Ermolaev, Vadim Ermolaev, Aida Karaeva, Nikita Kazennov, Sergey Urvanov, Ekaterina Zhukova


Tire Tread Wear Sensor—Tyrata, Inc.

Automotive, Electronics
Automobiles are becoming smarter, with significant attention being placed on ubiquitous sensors that monitor the car’s environment and overall condition. However, the only part of the car that actually contacts the road is greatly lacking in data; we need to know more about our tires. Tyrata, Inc.’s technology provides real-time, noninvasive measurement of tire wear, allowing for the mapping of a tire’s tread using a small electronic sensor applied to the inside of the tire. Using metallic carbon nanotubes has yielded a sensor with optimized sensitivity and the fully additive printing process for realizing the sensor is extremely favorable for commercialization.

Joseph Andrews, Jesko von Windheim, Aaron Franklin



Alkaline Membranes and Their Applications in Electrochemical Energy Conversion Technology – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Automotive, Energy
Bae group at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has developed hydroxide ion-conducting alkaline membranes that can overcome the limitations of current electrochemical cells such as battery and fuel cells. Although various types of membrane-based electrochemical energy conversion/storage technologies are known, they all utilize acidic membranes and, as a result, require to use acid-tolerant electrocatalysts (mostly platinum). The new solid ion conductors –solid in which anions are mobile and store and convert energy via electrochemical reactions under basic conditions– will enable to eliminate such expensive platinum catalyst in hydrogen fuel cells and water electrolysis (for hydrogen production) and lower the cost.

Watch a video of the demonstration »

Chulsung Bae


Membranes for a Low-Cost, Flexible, Hydrogen-Powered Future—PiperIon

Automotive, Energy, Efficiency
Abundant and affordable renewable energy has arrived. Fuel cells and electrolyzers can provide the fuels and transportation power sources to match our diverse energy needs. The current devices operate at acidic or high-temperature environments, requiring costly construction materials. By moving away from these demanding environments, hydroxide exchange membranes (HEMs) provide the lowest cost structure but have been held back by short-lived membranes.

PiperIon is commercializing new generation of HEMs with the durability and performance to bring HEM fuel cells and electrolyzers to market. Their membranes last 100x longer than the commercial competition, while offering even better performance through advanced polymer engineering.

Watch a video of the demonstration »

Yushan Yan, Santiago Rojas-Carbonell, Brian Setzler, Junhua Wang, Lan Wang, Keda Hu, Yun Zhao


Active Self-Cleaning Surface for Solar Panels—H2OPropel

H2Opropel logoEnergy, Efficiency
H2OPropel’s patented technology creates a self-cleaning coating for solar panels by actively steering the movement of water drops across the panel’s surface while providing the anti-reflection function, by which they are able to reduce labor cost and water usage, increase solar panel efficiency, and thus maximize solar plants’ or households’ investment in solar facilities. 

Di Sun, Karl F. Böhringer



Electrochemical Carbon Dioxide Conversion to Ethanol—Catalytic Innovations

Catalytic Innovations LogoEnergy, Efficiency
Catalytic Innovations has developed reactors that convert carbon dioxide into ethanol for use in consumer products and as a renewable fuel source. Their electrochemical process leverages high pressure carbon dioxide to improve yields over current state-of-the-art technologies. Using their reactor design and novel catalysts, this technology enables green and sustainably-derived ethanol production and introduces a lifecycle carbon negative commodity to the global market to combat the growing CO2 concentration in our atmosphere.


Silicon Nanowire Biosensors—Advanced Silicon Group

Advanced Silicon Group LogoBiotech/Pharma
Currently there is much hope in targeted cancer treatment.  The problem comes when during treatment, the cancer mutates and is no longer responsive to the treatment.  Often doctors and patients are unaware of the mutation until the patient’s health deteriorates. The patient then is required to go through a second round of treatment and more lung biopsies. Advanced Silicon Group is developing a liquid biopsy technique based on silicon nanowires that can quantitatively measure the biomarkers (protein and DNA) to track the treatment of lung cancer.  This will allow the doctor to dynamically alter the patient’s treatment improving results and lowering treatment costs. 

Marcie Black


Growth-Factor-Free Proliferation & Differentiation of Neural Stem Cells—Mat-A-Cell Ltd.

Mat-A-Cell manufactures and sells biocompatible iSECnM (Inorganic Sculptured ExtraCellular NanoMatrices) for growth-factor-free proliferation of neural stem cells and differentiation to functional neuronal cells, applied to stem cell therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. This innovation unprecedentedly avoids the use of chemical growth factors to markedly reduce the chance of inducing cancer. It was estimated in 2015 that over 100 million patients in the world were suffering from diverse neurodegenerative diseases, for which there is currently lack of ultimate cure.  Stem cell therapy is one of the promising new therapies that can potentially offer an ultimate treatment.  The market for the healthcare applications of our invention is therefore worth millions of US dollars per year.  The target customers are research institutions and hospitals.

Watch a video of the demonstration »

Zhifeng Huang, Ken Kin-Lam Yung
+8 52.3411.5886 | +8 52.3411.7060


Low Cost Integrated Biocompatible Ultrananocrystalline Diamond/Oxide/Polymer Coatings for New Generation Superior Implantable Medical Devices/Prostheses—Original Biomedical Implants (OBI-USA, LLC/OBI-México, SRL)

Original Biomedical Implants LogoBiotech/Pharma, Healthcare
OBI-USA/México's vision and mission is to provide unique, revolutionary materials to produce new generation of transformational high-tech, micro/nanoelectronic, medical devices based on novel, low cost, multifunctional, biocompatible/corrosion resistant diamond coatings (microcrystalline to ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD)) and nanodiamond/polymer/oxide composites to improve the way and quality of life. The lowest friction coefficient (0.02-0.04) of UNCD vs metals (≥ 0.5) used in prostheses, resistance to chemical attach by body fluids, electrical conductivity via dopants, enable a new generation of superior implantable medical devices, such as artificial hips, knees, dental, neural electrodes, and new generation of Li-ion batteries with ≥ 10 x longer life /safer for defibrillator/pacemakers.

Orlando Auciello, Elida de Obaldia, Jesus Alcantar-Peña, Jose Luis Rubio
972.883.4731 | 630.400.6200


Stick No More—The Pennsylvania State University

Healthcare, Surface Modification, Efficiency
This group from Penn State aims to use their super non-sticky surface coating—Liquid Entrenched Smooth Surfaces (LESS)—to reduce water consumption in toilets while also greatly reducing the cleaning frequency. LESS is a sprayable, anti-biofouling coating that outperforms commercial materials in repelling human urine and feces. They have shown that the LESS coating can be applied onto typical toilet materials within minutes, with up to ~90% saving in water consumption for surface cleaning. With > ~1.4 billion toilets in the world, our technology will mitigate global water scarcity and improve quality of life in many regions of the world.

Birgitt Boschitsch Stogin, Nan Sun, Jing Wang,
Tak-Sing Wong


COLOSSUS Nanospray—Height Performance Nanocoating—nChemi

nChemi LogoSurface Modification
COLOSSUS nanospray gives a ceramic thin film nanolayer (<100nm) in a new way to apply an aerosol so there is no limitation on size, complex format or difficult access locations. Moreover, anyone can use this innovation, reducing the cost, the need for specialized human resources, high treatment temperatures, high vacuum and/or large baths for immersion. Only a simple aerosol can and a soft heating to the formation of thin ceramic film is necessary. The thin film ceramic market is growing by 10% CAGR and by 2015 has been valued at approximately $33 billion.

Bruno Henrique Ramos de Lima, Tiago de Góes Conti, Lucas Daniel Tognoli Leite

+55 16.996247407


3D Printing of Electronic Components—Multi3D, LLC

Multi3D LogoElectronics, Radio Frequency Components
Multi3D is an electronic component and systems company that leverages advanced functional materials and additive manufacturing technologies to produce everything from RF antenna and flexible circuitry to sensors and wearable devices.  The company's conductive polymer is 1000X more conductive than any other conductive plastic on the market and has demonstrated rapid 3D fabrication of electronic traces, discrete components and free-standing antenna architectures with performance at parity to metallic-like incumbents, but with significantly faster cycle times, lower cost and weight, and freedom from design constraints, opening new opportunities in next-generation electronic device design and manufacturing.

Allen Gray, Shengrong Ye, Benjamin Wiley
919-371-8422 | 919-667-7499


Stretch the Mechanical Limits of Electronics—Feeltronix

Can rubber be “smart”? Current wearable devices rely on rubber as a structural material as it offers a natural skin-like feel and excellent mechanical properties. However, the smart electronic sensing and communication functions are still restricted to a rigid casing, essentially repackaging a printed circuit board. Feeltronix’s breakthrough platform technology provides design and manufacturing solutions to distributed standard electronic circuits into rubber that can withstand repeated and extreme mechanical deformations (flex, twist, stretch, fold).

Feeltronix is focusing their efforts to market the innovation for wearable electronic devices for which new form factors, high mechanical compliance, and skin-like feel are needed. Their current focuses are within the sports, AR/VR, healthcare, and watchmaking industries.

Watch a video of the demonstration »

Arthur Hirsch



ReadSpot has prepared functional NFC devices by printing antennas with three different methods and attached NFC chips to these printed antennas. The NFC tags interact with a specially-prepared smartphone application named ReadSpot. This system was designed to help people with visual impairment and tourists who don't know the local language by identifying specific products and reading out load important information such as the expiration date on a medication box. This project presents a vision of what can be an excellent use of low-cost printed electronics and NFC technology, one that benefits humanity and has a commercial appeal. 

Yousef Farraj, Yitzchak Rosen, Gabriel Saada, Adi Szeskin, Shlomo Magdassi
+972547852141 | +97226584967


Supercooled Metal Particles—SAFI-Tech, Inc.

SAFI Tech LogoElectronics
SAFI-Tech’s supercooled metal inks enable flexible electronics manufacturers to form interconnects or conductive traces without thermal damage. The technology consists of water-balloon-like microparticles of liquid metal solders in a metastable supercooled state. These particles can be mechanically broken or chemically triggered to release the liquid metal, which then rapidly solidifies. SAFI-Tech’s vision is to provide supercooled metal technology to electronics manufacturers to solve issues caused by high temperature processes 

Ian Tevis, Martin Thuo


Switchable Hyperspectral Filter—Dragon Spectral

Dragon Spectral logoElectronics
Dragon Spectral has commercialized a radical new hyperspectral filter technology invented at Drexel University. This new filter technology, based on holographic polymer dispersed liquid crystals, can be used to create custom designed filters that transmit or block specific wavelengths or patterns of wavelengths across the entire light spectrum (ultraviolet to visible to near-infrared). Unlike current commercially-available hyperspectral imaging systems, the Dragon Filters™ are lightweight electro-optic devices which can be switched in microseconds between light transmitting and light blocking states, enabling new CMOS imager architectures in a miniature form factor. Countless applications may potentially disrupt the $75B imaging ecosystem.

Watch a video of the demonstration »

Adam Fontecchio and Katie Van Aken


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