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UH Startup SurfEllent Wins Big at the 2019 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition

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Rashda Khan
Hadi Ghasemi, Bill D. Cook Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, accepts his 2019 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition (TNVC) winnings.
Hadi Ghasemi, Bill D. Cook Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, accepts his 2019 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition (TNVC) winnings.

SurfEllent, a startup which brings innovative durable anti-icing coating technologies to the market, competed in the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition (TNVC) for the first time this year and performed extremely well. It won the second place award and its accompanying $35,000 check and walked away with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension (TEEX) Product Development Center Prize of $10,000.

The startup, which is about a year old, is based on the cutting-edge research conducted by Hadi Ghasemi, Bill D. Cook Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, and students in his Nano Therm lab.

“Icing is a major problem that impacts a wide range of things, including aircraft wings and engines, automobiles, buildings and bridges, ships and vessels, and power transmission systems,” Ghasemi said. “This recognition is another proof of the critical need for advanced anti-icing coating technologies and opens opportunities for collaboration with various industries and business partners.”

The company’s initial anti-icing coating was inspired by the tiny North American Wood Frog, a creature that can freeze up to 65 percent of its total body water without dying. Similarly, Ghasemi’s biologically-inspired anti-icing material can withstand critically low temperatures.

The new material – which can be applied to various types of surfaces as a coating – was one of three winners of the NASA iTech competition in 2017. NASA recognized the project for its potential to broadly impact human life on earth and the future of space travel.

Ghasemi and Peyman Irajizad (MSME ’16, Ph.D. ’18) are co-founders of SurfEllent, which is located at the UH Technology Bridge – a research park that offers 30,000 square feet of incubator space and 700,000 square feet for laboratories and light manufacturing. Plans are to use the $45,000 of prize money to expand SurfEllent’s manufacturing facility and market share, Ghasemi said.

“While R&D is ongoing at the start-up, we are also increasing number of our commercial products,” he added.

SurfEllent’s products, available as aerosol sprays and paints, are available through the company’s online shopping platform at https://surfellent.com. Besides being useful on airplane wings and transmission lines, the products also have more everyday applications such as de-icing vehicles and porches.

Here's a short video about how SurfEllent's coating works: https://www.surfellent.com/demo

TNVC, an annual pitch competition designed to promote the commercialization of emerging technologies, recognizes companies with high-growth potential and provides seed funding to help advance them. The competition is hosted by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES).

With more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services, the prize pool for this year’s competition was the largest yet. Since 2015, the TNVC has awarded more than $1.5 million in prizes to Texas-based startups.

To see the full list of 2019 TNVC winners, please visit: https://texasnvc.org/2019-results/

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