Four Finalists Compete for Rights to Commercialize University of Pennsylvania Nanotech in Third Annual “Y-Prize”

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Penn students presenting business plans for commercializing three different nanotechnology inventions.

Grand Finale of the Y-Prize, which will award $5,000 and non-exclusive commercialization rights to the winning team.

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m.

Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology
University of Pennsylvania
3205 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania Y-Prize Competition has announced the four finalists who will battle for $5,000 and rights to commercialize their application of Penn nanotechnology at the third annual Y-Prize Grand Finale.

Co-sponsored by Penn Engineering, the Penn Center for Innovation and the Wharton School’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, student teams propose innovative commercial applications for technology invented by University of Pennsylvania researchers. In its third year, the focal technology is nanotechnology developed by Penn Engineering professors Mark Allen, Charlie Johnson and Kevin Turner.

The 2015 Y-Prize Finalists are:

  • GFET Frack Technologies: Using graphene to reliably detect dangerous and costly leaks of fracking fluid into groundwater


  • Lavoisier: Combining graphene and quantum dot technology to create a device that identifies counterfeit prescription drugs


  • SolCharge: A sustainable, portable, window-attachable electronic charging device that harvests energy from solar panels


  • Thermophene: Leveraging the conductive properties of graphene to provide cost effective thermal management solutions in the electronics industry


The finalist teams were each awarded business and tech consulting to develop their ideas. Consultants are MBA candidates and graduate students who worked on the focal technology alongside faculty researchers.

The teams will go head-to-head at the Y-Prize Grand Finale with 10-minute presentations to a judging panel of industry figures and venture capitalists who will evaluate the market potential and technical feasibility of each proposal. The presentations will be followed by a reception, during which the winning team will be announced.

The Y-Prize is an opportunity for members of the entire Penn community to come together and develop ideas for commercializing the University’s world-class research. Because teams must possess a balance of skills in science, information technology and business, the contest promotes intercollegiate cooperation and collaboration among the University’s schools. Previous iterations of the competition have focused on robotics technologies developed at Penn’s General Robotics Automation Sensing and Perception Laboratory.

The 2014 winner, Emily Plumb, at the time a senior Engineering major at Penn, proposed a teaching robot hexapod designed to give children hands-on experience with STEM concepts. Since the competition, she has participated in PCI’s Lean Launch Pad program and partnered with a Philadelphia high school’s robotics class to pilot the program. The winner of the inaugural competition, Identified Technologies, has grown to an eight person team and is now part of Alphalab Gear, an incubator for tech startups in Pittsburgh. They deliver data to leaders in the oil, gas and construction industries using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Very limited seating to attend the Y-Prize Grand Finale is available to the Penn community and public by registering at the Y-Prize website.

About the Y-Prize

In a cross-University collaboration, the University of Pennsylvania announces the Y-Prize Competition, in which members of the Penn community compete to propose the best applications for an existing technological solution and compete to win $5000. The event is co-sponsored by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School, and Penn Center for Innovation. More information can be found at the Prize website:

About the Wharton School

Founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. With a broad global community and one of the most published business school faculties, Wharton creates economic and social value around the world. The School has 5,000 undergraduateMBAexecutive MBA, and doctoral students; more than 9,000 participants in executive education programs annually and a powerful alumni network of 93,000 graduates.

About Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science

For over 150 years, Penn Engineering’s world-acclaimed faculty, state-of-the-art research laboratories and highly interdisciplinary curricula has offered a learning experience that is unparalleled. Over 35 undergraduate and graduate programs are offered in the Departments of bioengineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, computer and information science, electrical and systems engineering, materials science and Engineering, and mechanical engineering and applied mechanics. Engineering is also home to 15 research institutes and centers conducting innovative interdisciplinary research, epitomizing Penn founder Benjamin Franklin’s idea of joining education and research for a practical purpose.

About the Penn Center for Innovation

The Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) helps to translate Penn discoveries and ideas into new products and businesses for the benefit of society. It does this by facilitating technology development connections between Penn and the private sector. Whether the end result is a technology license, an R&D alliance, the formation of a new venture or an integrated combination of any or all of these activities, PCI serves as a dedicated one-stop shop for commercial partnering with Penn.

Media Contacts:

Peter Winicov
Wharton Media Relations
215-746-6471 or

Evan Lerner
Penn Communications
215-573-6604 or