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Faculty innovators earn funding for novel technology commercialization

Lei Cao

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professor and Nuclear Engineering Program Director, Dr. Raymond Cao, is among five innovative minds selected to receive funding via The Ohio State University Accelerator Awards. 

The Accelerator Awards program is designed to advance the translation of technologies developed at Ohio State into the marketplace. The program provides grants of up to $150,000 per project to support external validation that will demonstrate the commercial viability of a technology. The goal of the program is to license the technology to an Ohio-based startup company and support economic development in the region. Administered through the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, the program is funded by the university with matching funds from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Startup Fund.

“The latest round of the Accelerator Award cycle showcased a remarkable collection of cutting-edge technologies. We are delighted to provide essential funding at this crucial early stage to our PIs enabling them to conduct proof-of-concept studies and develop prototypes that swiftly validate the efficacy of their technologies,” said Cheryl Turnbull, senior director of the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship. “By investing in such groundwork before entering into license agreements, our aim is to enhance the value and scale of startup ventures emerging from Ohio State." 

Since the program launch in 2015, Accelerator Awards have distributed over $5 million dollars to 69 unique projects. These projects have led to more than 20 startup companies.

Cao is researching, MEGA detector for ultra-sensitive tritium gas detection, for this award.

Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen found in nature, is already widely used in medical and geological research as a tracer for life cycle studies. The emergence of fusion research and the anticipated clean energy from fusion power will further increase the demand for tritium usage. Industries such as medical, defense, energy, and environmental protection are facing a significant challenge in detecting tritium with ultra-high sensitivity. This project seeks to employ an innovative approach to create tritium detectors that are lighter, smaller, and more cost-effective. The Accelerator Award funds will enable us to develop a prototype for commercialization of a high-sensitivity tritium detector to cater to the unique demands of the aforementioned industries.

Read the full release by the College of Engineering