MassCEC Awards $120,000 in Clean Energy Research Grants to UMass, Tufts and Northeastern

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MassCEC now accepting applications from early stage companies and researchers
Feb 8, 2012 –

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) today announced that three clean energy researchers were awarded $40,000 in grants each through MassCEC’s Catalyst Program, which is aimed at commercializing game-changing clean energy technologies being developed in Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts’ outstanding academic and research institutions – and the innovations they produce - are integral to the growth of our clean energy sector and these investments give researchers a leg up toward commercialization,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., who chairs the MassCEC board of directors. “Our clean energy economy is growing in Massachusetts thanks to these types of partnerships between government, academia and the private sector. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of these projects.”

MassCEC’s Catalyst Program, which is funded by MassCEC and managed by MTTC, launched its fifth solicitation for applications today. The program is now accepting applications for grants of up to $40,000 to help demonstrate the commercial viability of clean energy technologies. The program is now open to early-stage companies and research institutions located in Massachusetts.

“I’m thrilled to see another group of passionate technologists come through MassCEC’s Catalyst program, which has proven success in propelling clean energy technologies from the research lab to the commercial marketplace,” said MassCEC Chief Executive Officer Patrick Cloney. “By opening the program up to early-stage companies as well as researchers, we will have the ability to further the development of more clean energy technologies in the Commonwealth.”

“This awards program has been critical to researchers trying to move their technologies from initial discovery to prototype demonstration,” said Abi Barrow, Founding Director of MTTC which manages MassCEC’s Catalyst Program.  “It really helps them show the commercial viability of the invention”

Recipients must use the funding for projects that move their technologies towards commercialization. This includes gathering initial data to demonstrate proof of concept, how the technology compares to existing technologies and competitive advantages of the technology, or to develop a prototype for the technology. The goal of MassCEC’s Catalyst Program is to help technologies progress along the development curve to a point where additional commercialization funding can be obtained.

“MassCEC’s Catalyst Program provided a springboard that elevated the visibility of Dr.Bart Lipkens’ and Western New England University's novel acoustic filtration and separation technology, and helped in the creation of FloDesign Sonics Inc,” said FloDesign Sonics Inc. CEO Louis Masi. “The funding allowed us to hire three paid students and one additional full-time mechanical engineer, and the company continues to grow in Western Massachusetts.”

The following researchers will receive $40,000:

Vijaya Chalivendra, Ph.D., “Greener High Strength, Lightweight and Low Cost Structural Composites using Sustainable Natural Fibers”
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Department of Mechanical Engineering
Chalivendra will use MassCEC Catalyst Program funding to fabricate light-weight, sustainable, energy efficient and natural jute fiber reinforced through thickness laminated composites. Researchers will then investigate the mechanical and fracture performance such as crack initiation of these novel composites. These fibers can decrease the weight of vehicles and thus decrease fuel consumption.

Matthew J. Panzer, Ph.D., “Ionogel Electrolytes for the Next Generation of Energy Storage”
Tufts University’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Panzer will use the MassCEC Catalyst Program funding to build an ionogel-based supercapacitor device prototype and to assess its energy storage and delivery capabilities. Ionic liquids offer many advantages for its use in energy storage devices such as batteries and supercapacitors, including safer operation due to their non-volatility as well as larger operating voltages. Tufts researchers have developed a method of creating a solid ionic liquid-containing (ionogel) electrolyte that possesses characteristics similar to those of the ionic liquid, but in a solid form that will not leak or spill. This ionogel could be the basis for a high-power supercapacitor inside an electric vehicle, providing burst power for acceleration and quick charging for a kinetic energy recovery system upon braking.

Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons, Ph.D., “Engineering Increased Biodiesel Productivity from Microalgae”
Northeastern University’s Department of Chemical Engineering/Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Researchers plan to use the funding to improve the economics of biodiesel production through cultivation of microalgae engineered with increased oil biosynthesis. The MassCEC Catalyst Program funding will allow researchers to apply the combined technologies of genetic engineering and bioanalysis to identify and manipulate biological targets to increase the production rate of biofuels from microalgae. 

To be eligible for an award an applicant must be a principal investigator, or an early stage company. Researchers applying must disclose their technology and their host institution, which must be located in Massachusetts. Early stage companies are defined as companies that have raised less than $200,000 in equity financings (grants can be unlimited), have four or fewer employees and have been incorporated for less than 18 months at the time of the application submission.

The first deadline for applicants is March 14, 2012. Application directions are available at:

For more information, contact Michele Bernier at the MTTC at or (774) 455-7278.