Argonne National Laboratory

A ‘shark tank’ for Argonne scientists

By Tona KunzAugust 30, 2017

You can get a first-hand look at what could be the next big innovation percolating at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. Could it be a reusable sponge that can absorb coastal oil spills? A system that uses acoustic holography to map air leaks in buildings? Or one of the other novel technologies being showcased at the “National Lab Accelerator” pitch event?

Come and see when the technologies get showcased from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, during a pitch competition held at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, near the campus. The event is free, but registration is required here.

“This is a chance to learn about the technologies your local national lab is working on right here in Illinois, how the U.S. government helps foster innovation and to network with others in the Chicago innovation ecosystem,” said Diego Fazi, innovation program coordinator and Argonne’s principal investigator for the National Lab Accelerator program.

The event will include presentations by five accelerator program teams about how the technology could revolutionize the way we live and work. A panel of Chicago innovation leaders will judge the teams on the technical and market potential of the innovations.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) launched National Lab Accelerator programs at several national laboratories across the nation to help scientists understand and interact with industry. National Lab Accelerator is one of several pilot projects, collectively called “Lab-Bridge,” that provide support for the laboratories to experiment with new approaches to partnership and tech transfer. Technologies featured at the National Lab Accelerator pitch event could address some of the nation’s greatest energy challenges.

National laboratories participating in the Lab Accelerator program partner with local universities and accelerators to present a concept for commercialization, which also serves as a precursor to DOE’s two-month intensive Energy I-Corps program.

“The Polsky Center is proud to have played a key role in developing this program and providing important feedback to Argonne scientists and researchers,” said John Flavin, associate vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Chicago and head of the Polsky Center. “We are thrilled to host the National Lab Accelerator Pitch Day and get a first-hand look at the next wave of innovation.”

After Argonne’s National Lab Accelerator pitch competition, the winner will advance to a national competition to battle the winning pitches from national laboratories across the country. The winning team at the national level will receive additional funding from EERE to further develop their technology to the next stage.

Attendees at the Sept. 14 event will learn about the following technologies:

• NanoHeatBlock – A process for rapid hydrothermal synthesis of nanoparticles for smart materials and devices
• Oleo Sponge – An oil absorbent material that sifts sea water and collects oil particulates to be used again. The target application is oil remediation and waste water treatment.
• SonicLQ – Sound waves that locate and size energy wasting air leaks in building envelopes. Businesses and commissioning agents, who certify mechanical systems within buildings, can use SonicLQ to test commercial building envelopes and air barriers.
• SuperEN – A solid-state electrolyte that could enable safer lithium-ion batteries with three times the energy density, resulting in longer run times and lower costs for vehicles, portable devices and energy storage
• TWBarriers – An atomic layer deposition technique to improve battery lifetime by 20 percent while also improving capacity. Electric vehicles and grid-scale energy storage are the initial applications for this technology. 

The event will be held at the Polsky Center at 1452 E 53rd Street in Chicago, Illinois. For more information about these technologies, please see Argonne’s Technologies, Commercialization and Partnership’s Technologies Available for Licensing webpage or email

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) supports early-stage research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that make energy more affordable and strengthen the reliability, resilience, and security of the U.S. electric grid. 

The Lab-Bridge pilot is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology-to-Market Program (Tech-to-Market). Tech-to-Market is strengthening the U.S. innovation ecosystem by eliminating common barriers that prevent market exploration of new energy technologies. For more information, visit the Tech-to-Market website.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.