Rice engineers win 2024 Energy Venture Day and Pitch Competition

Startup teams place first and second for their innovations in energy transition.

2024 Energy Venture Day, Rice Alliance

Teams of Rice engineering students and faculty won first and second place in the 2024 Energy Venture Day and Pitch Competition, an annual event showcasing advancements in energy transition through such fields as renewables, hydrogen solutions and carbon storage.

A panel of judges drawn from industry and investors evaluated 39 startup teams. The competition is aimed at connecting energy startups with venture capitalists, corporate innovation groups, industry leaders, academics and service providers.

Winning first place and a $25,000 cash prize was Solidec, a startup for a room-temperature, solid-state direct air-capture technology based in the lab of Haotian Wang, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChBE), and co-founder and chief scientist for Solidec.

Wang’s collaborators are Ryan DuChanois, postdoctoral researcher in ChBE, co-founder and chief executive officer of Solidec; Yang Xia ’23 Ph.D. ChBE, co-founder and chief technology officer; David Liu, ’05 MBA Rice, legal consultant to Solidec.

Winning second place and $15,000 was CoFlux Purification, a startup that has developed a patent-pending in-stream module that breaks down PFAS using an absorbent for chemical-free water. PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and have been widely used in coatings, chemical and materials processing, and firefighting foams. High levels in humans are associated with such health problems as cancer.

Team members are based in the lab of Rafael Verduzco, professor of ChBE, and include: Alec Ajnsztajn, postdoctoral researcher, materials science and nanoengineering (MSNE); Jeremy Daum, doctoral student in MSNE; Dana Vasquez ’24 MBA.

Funding for the competition was provided by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The Houston Energy Transition Initiative and TEX-E hosted the competition. It was held during CERAWeek, organized by S&P Global and held in the George R. Brown Convention Center on March 20.