White shares startup experience with students while commercializing self-healing battery technology
From academic homes across the College of Engineering, including electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical science and engineering, materials science and engineering and AE as well as participants form the College of Business, the students will engage in market analysis, business plan development and risk assessment as well as develop technology demonstrators and prototypes. They will collaborate with and gain advice from students at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
The project is part of the College of Engineering’s Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows (FEF) program, to which White was selected this year. A pioneer in the development of self-healing materials, White has had experience founding his own startups and hopes to pass that knowledge on to the students.
The FEF program encourages and promotes the transition of University technology to commercial application. “We’re taking four technologies that we’ve developed over the past five years and that are under patent application, and we’re going to work with the students to bring the technologies from where they are now to the point where they can be commercialized,” White said. “At the end of the year, I hope to form a new company that will commercialize self-healing batteries. The students that are involved will be some of the new hires in that company.”
All the students were interviewed before being accepted into the project, and many bring with them business skills and market analysis training, as well as knowledge in engineering batteries.
White and his team are developing a self-healing battery that will be safer and last much longer than existing batteries. Targeting the ever-expanding transportation sector, the team is developing electrodes that shutdown the battery before combustion in the event of battery failure. The addition of microcapsules, which release conductive particles when cracking occurs, and the use of self-healing binders promise to extend the life of the battery.
White’s research is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s $45 million Center for Electrochemical Energy Science, an Energy Frontier Research Center, established in 2009 as a partnership between Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Northwestern University.
Ultimately, all engineers want the technology that they develop to have useful applications, White said, and he believes the FEF program can be a way to expand the Illinois economy and create jobs in the state.
“The only way I know of to commercialize university technology is to spin it out and do it yourself until larger companies are interested and will approach you,” he maintained.