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Meggers, Ren awarded Princeton accelerator funding

March 17, 2023

Meggers, Ren awarded Princeton accelerator funding

By Alaina O’Regan, Office of the Dean for Research

Two Andlinger Center faculty, Forrest Meggers and Z. Jason Ren, have been awarded funding from Princeton University’s Intellectual Property (IP) Accelerator Fund.

The Fund, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, provides support to researchers who have made a discovery but need to conduct extra studies to demonstrate that the discovery can meet a societal need. Such studies drive the research forward and can be essential for attracting outside investment and funding from government small-business programs.

Through the Fund, University researchers can receive up to $100,000 for prototyping, experiments and other efforts that advance the state of the technology and demonstrate the value of a discovery.

Projects are selected following a competitive application process that includes peer review and evaluation based on scientific and technical merit, innovation and novelty, the ability of the technology to meet a market or societal need, and the potential for public benefit.

The Fund is one of several seed funding programs administered by the Office of the Dean for Research.

The two projects awarded in 2022 to Andlinger Center faculty are:

Revolutionizing heating and cooling systems with new radiant technology

Forrest Meggers, associate professor of architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and co-director of the program in Architecture and Engineering, and his team have developed a cooling system that is more efficient and cost-effective than traditional air conditioning. Rather than cooling the air in a room, the system cools people by managing the heat emitted by human bodies and the exchange of heat between people and surfaces in a room. Previous systems have used cooling panels to reduce radiant heat transfer, but these panels attract water from the air, creating condensation and causing walls and ceilings to be wet. The new innovation solves this problem by building cooling panels with a material that forms an air barrier that prevents humid air from touching surfaces and maintains dryness behind the panels. The system is more cost effective and sustainable than traditional cooling systems because it enables outdoor heating and cooling of people without having to heat or cool the outdoor air.  The team will use the IP Accelerator award to build a large-scale demonstration facility to further explore the efficacy of the design.

Extracting lithium using solar power

Z. Jason Ren, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate director for research at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, along with Sunxiang “Sean” Zheng, professional specialist and Princeton START Fellow, and their team have developed a new, sustainable way to extract lithium, a mineral in high demand due to its range of applications. The new technology uses solar power to extract lithium from brine, or water with high salt concentrations, where the majority of lithium on Earth is found. The system extracts lithium from brine at a rate of more than ten times that of the standard method. The new approach is particularly advantageous for use in the United States, which mines and processes less than 1% of the global lithium supply, yet is the largest consumer of the mineral. The IP Accelerator Fund will facilitate prototype testing and technology translation.

Read about all six projects that received funding in 2022 on the Dean for Research website.