Mesdi's project energizes inaugural contest
Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 14, 2012 10:05
A team of UCF students won the inaugural ACC Clean Energy Challenge and Department of Energy’s $100,000 grand prize for its project at the competition of student business plans for companies focused on renewable energy on April 25.
Brandon Lojewski, Weiwei Deng, Jian Liu, Cheng Li, Michael Tullbane, Thomas Yang and Johan Rodriguez founded Mesdi Systems Inc., the competition’s winning team from UCF. Mesdi will represent the southeast region in the DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Finals in Washington, D.C. on June 12-13.
Lojewski, a UCF graduate student studying mechanical engineering, and Rodriguez, who received his mechanical engineering degree this year, created technology that will enhance the capabilities of car batteries among other products.
The technology, named multiplexed electrospray, uses an electrical charge to create uniform, ultra-fine droplets with precision control. Multiplexed means using multiple spray heads to maximize the amount of droplets. The market today cannot use any current spray technology because it is not cost effective. Existing technology would result in the loss of the expensive compound that the machine sprays.
If used, the device would save money and increase the potential of the product. For example, an electric car battery using this technology would be able to travel hundreds of miles on a single charge.
Weiwei Deng, Lojewski’s adviser and founder of multiplexed electrospray technology, used a cellphone battery to explain the capability of this process.
“If my phone dies today and I don’t have my charger, tomorrow will be bad for four or five hours,” Deng said. “Imagine if the battery would last for days or even better, be able to be fully charged in 10 minutes.”
Lojewski said the $100,000 grand prize will be put toward hiring himself on as an employee for his company and finding investors. The money won will be utilized through meeting with various companies that may be interested in the technology.
“It is really just keeping the business going and helping me seek other funding opportunities,” Lojewski said.
Mesdi Systems’ launch in 2011 was a result of competing in a similar clean energy business plan competition, Megawatt Ventures, sponsored by the Department of Energy and UCF. In that event, Mesdi Systems won $10,000 as a finalist.
The $10,000 went specifically to developing a prototype, which paid off in the ACC challenge. Lojewski also put a considerable amount of effort into the business plan.
“The Megawatt Ventures, my pitch and presentation for that, 80 percent was technology and 20 percent was business ideas,” Lojewski said. “It was completely flipped for this pitch. And I think we were also the only team with a prototype.”
When Mesdi Systems returns to Washington, D.C. for the National Clean Energy Business Plan finals, it will compete against universities such as MIT and Stanford.
“We beefed up the business plan with more data and more numbers for D.C.; that is something that was brought up in the questions and something I realized before we got there,” Lojewski said.
For Rodriguez, the thrill of winning the competition at the regional level was great. He was unaware that it would be followed by a national competition.
“A woman said to me after we won, ‘I guess I’ll see you in the White House in June.’ I was like what? I didn’t even know there was a national step in the competition,” Rodriguez said.
Lojewski is the first graduate student Deng has had. Over the past two years, Deng has watched his technology flourish into what it is now.
“I’m thrilled,” Deng said, “An adviser’s career is only as successful as their students.”
The national competition in June will be to provide opportunities for Mesdi Systems Inc. to gain exposure to potential investors from across the U.S. interested in this new efficient technology.