UH Students Showcase Energy Solutions at DOE’s EnergyTech University Prize National Competition

By Ed Bailey

As global energy demands evolve and increase, so does the need for cutting-edge solutions and technologies that can help power the industry forward.

Here at the Energy University, a quintet of students have taken that challenge to heart. They’ve leveraged their aptitude for the latest marketplace trends and developed promising technologies that address critical and emerging sources of clean energy.

University of Houston engineering doctoral students Erin Picton and Parisan Taheri, sophomore finance and accounting major Pranjal Sheth, finance graduate student Cameron Templeton and junior computer science major Anneka Gill were part of three teams that participated in the recent U.S. Department of Energy 2023 EnergyTech University Prize competition.

Aiming to empower future energy innovators, the EnergyTech UP competition encourages multidisciplinary student teams to develop and present business plans for high-potential energy applications in various spaces.

Each UH team competed in Explore Events during the first stage, with regional winners chosen to advance to the national pitch event and to receive access to the DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions’ curriculum and mentorship. Additionally, there were eight bonus prize finalists from each region, with the DOE technology offices selecting one winning team from that technology area to receive a $25,000 award.

Identifying hydrogen’s capabilities and financial value as perhaps the preeminent energy source of the future, Gill collaborated with a pair of Prairie View A&M students to market ceramic membrane technology curated by Argonne National Laboratories to improve blue hydrogen production.

Their efforts earned them the OTT-specific National Lab Technology IP Licensing Bonus Prize. With the win, Gill’s team was the only bonus prizewinner to advance alongside the regional winners to nationals.

“My team and I quickly recognized the limitations of current energy resources to support a growing population's energy needs,” Gill said. “The increasing energy consumption to sustain our modern lifestyles continues to put a strain on the planet, making an economical and sustainable net zero carbon energy solution more critical than ever.”

She added that hydrogen has the potential to play a pivotal role in transitioning from carbon-intensive practices to net-zero emissions by offering a clean, renewable, and efficient energy source that can help meet our energy needs without continuing to harm the environment.

Picton, Taheri and Sheth formed team LiQuidium, whose East regional-winning pitch focused on a state-of-the-art lithium-selective nanomembrane developed by the students in the Shaffer Lab at UH.

According to Picton, LiQuidum’s team captain, the project can help reduce “barriers to electrification by creating environmentally and economically sustainable sources of critical energy storage resources [that] will help the U.S. remain a global leader in decarbonization.”

“We are addressing the critical supply chain gap in domestic lithium refining by extracting more lithium from brine sources while generating less waste …using [the] lithium-selective nanomembrane,” Picton said.

LiQuidium wasn’t the only regional winner, as Templeton aligned with University of Texas students to form team Pike Robotics, who won the Southwest Regional with a business plan centered on autonomous robots that can inspect storage tanks.

Students interested in competing as a student or supporting a team next year should follow the EnergyTech UP page on HeroX for updates and further information.