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TransTech Energy program at WVU names winning startup companies

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Six TransTech energy startup companies, including two run by West Virginia University graduate students, were recently named winners by a panel of experts at the 2nd annual TransTech Energy Business Development Conference. The conference, which focuses on technologies that can transition today's economy to energy with fewer greenhouse gas emissions and greater efficiency, was hosted by the Energy Efficiency Division of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at WVU.

Optimum Pumping Technology and SAVD Solar Inc., both of Pittsburgh, were named "Best of TransTech 2013" and received grants of $10,000 each to support ongoing business development. Rev LNG LLC, of Ulysses, Pa., was also named a "Best of TransTech 2013" startup and received $5,000.

 Vandalia Technologies LLC, of Princeton, received the "WVU Research Office Technical Assistance Award" with services valued at $10,000, while WindPax LLC, of Glen Dale, and Aspinity, Inc., of Morgantown, each were named the top WVU student-run companies, each receiving a $2,500 grant.

Twenty-three TransTech concepts were pitched to panels of investors and industry experts who judged the presentations according to the investment attractiveness of the company, the level of innovativeness and competitive potential.

Optimum Pumping Technology won for its patent-pending piping manifolds for natural gas pumping stations. According to the company president, Glen Chatfield, the innovative design of the manifolds delivers 30 percent greater gas flow capacity, a 20 percent increase in compressor operating efficiency, and a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The company plans to conduct full-scale field tests in 2014 funded by six major corporations.

SAVD Solar Inc. offered its high efficiency solar cell technology based on proprietary nano‐scale engineering to redirect light inside the silicon cell. CEO Mark Vernallis said the product is expected to be 30 percent less expensive on a dollar-per-watt basis than its competitors. Third-party evaluations are being conducted at two research labs.

Rev LNG LLC, sources, transports, and distributes liquefied natural gas to customers for on- and off-road energy applications. CEO David Kailbourne said the company currently has three multi-year take-or-pay contracts with more than 20 more contracts pending.

Vandalia Technologies LLC, is developing fiber optic temperature and gas detection systems, effective over several miles and hundreds of detection and measurement points. Company president Bruce Mutter said the system can be used for methane leak detection and to provide lighting to alert workers to potential hazards such as heavy machinery in dark, confined places. The company is also investigating the use of the fiber optic wearable lighting devices to enhance worker safety. Field trials are ongoing with the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health and with GE.

WindPax LLC is seeking to market portable collapsible power generation and energy storage wind turbines. Company president Justin Chambers demonstrated the lightweight, easy to assemble devices for the judges, saying his product is ideal for outdoor recreation, military operations, and emergency preparedness situations where power is not readily available. Chambers is a graduate student in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Aspinity Inc. is developing an analog signal processing technology that enables ultra-low power consumption for wireless sensing and communication devices. Company president Brandon Rumberg, a graduate student in the Statler College Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, said the technology is well-suited for industrial and residential automation systems wherever battery-powered monitoring devices are prevalent. Aspinity's technology can increase battery life tenfold he said.

To help participants catch the entrepreneurial spirit, conference organizers introduced the Crowd Choice Awards this year. Audience members were invited to score presenters in each of the five pitch sessions. BioAdhesive Alliance's Daniel Oldham, of Greensboro, N.C.; Excavation Alert Systems LLC's Ryan Dunn, of Charlottesville, Va.; SolarCast LLC's Eric Casteel, of Pittsburgh; and Terves Inc.'s Andrew Sherman, of Euclid, Ohio, were all named Crowd Choice Award Winners. Also, John VanOsdol of the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown was a Crowd Choice winner for his pitch of a project to develop a transpiration purging optical access probe for use in coal-fired boilers that has commercial potential for the right company to take it to market.