Four teams of Virginia Tech undergraduates were recognized earlier this year as winners of the 2018 Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Challenge (NTEC). The contest is hosted by NanoEarth — Virginia Tech’s National Science Foundation-funded National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology — and the Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, with additional support from the Economical and Sustainable Materials Strategic Growth Area.
The NTEC program encourages diverse, student-led teams to apply nanotechnology-based ideas to sustainability challenges in areas such as public health, agriculture, clean water, and renewable energy. Winning teams receive seed funds to help develop their idea, as well as business development assistance and mentorship.
“Nano-enabled products are currently worth approximately $2 trillion per year on the global market,” said Mike Hochella, a professor in the Department of Geosciences and NanoEarth site director. “It is exhilarating for the students to know that they can actually think about participating in such a massive and important market.”
Among the four winning teams was EcoBullet, environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional munitions used in military and civilian applications (lead casing remains have been an environmental issue). Heading the project were Nanoscience and Physics double major Nicholas Smith, who graduated in May, and Nanoscience major Brendan Ryan, a rising senior, with faculty advisor Randy Heflin, a professor of Physics and associate dean for research in the College of Science.