Argonne National Laboratory

FGC Plasma Solutions wins top NASA innovation award

February 23, 2018

Felipe Gomez del Campo’s trip to NASA headquarters to receive the 2018 NASA iTech award for X-Factor Innovation started at a science fair in a Florida high school.

“I ended up taking it all the way to the international science fair. After we were finished and flying back, one of my mentors turned to me and pointed out the window and said, ‘Can you imagine if in 10 or 15 years every airplane flying is more efficient because of something you invented?’” said Gomez del Campo. “I took that motivation to Case Western Reserve University, where I went to undergrad and continued to work on this project. I quickly realized that the best way to develop it was probably going to be as a company instead of as a pure research project.”

From this conviction, FGC Plasma Solutions was born. The company developed a novel fuel-injection system for jets and gas turbines that increases fuel efficiency; enables the burning of low-energy fuels, called BTUs; and allows for re-ignition midflight. FGC Plasma Solutions is developing the technology in a new national entrepreneurship program called Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago.

“One of my mentors turned to me and said, ‘Can you imagine if in 10 or 15 years every airplane flying is more efficient because of something you invented?’” — Felipe Gomez del Campo, CEO of FGC Plasma Solutions and participant in Argonne’s Chain Reaction Innovations program

On February 1, FGC Plasma Solutions CEO Gomez del Campo was standing in front of the brightest minds in the space industry receiving one of NASA’s top awards. The kid with a science fair project and a big dream from a family of Mexican immigrants had come a long way.

The X-Factor Innovation Award is for technology that “clearly demonstrate[s] a potential to fill a critical need for NASA and humans on Earth,” according to a NASA release. Judges select the top three innovations based on criteria including technical viability, the likely impact on future space exploration, benefits to humanity and commercialization potential. 

"It was an honor to present alongside 10 other incredible technologies,” said Gomez del Campo. “FGC Plasma Solutions is very excited to have been selected by NASA’s chief technologists to be among the top three companies."                         

Leaders from NASA, space industry leaders and potential investors evaluated the finalists’ ideas, which were submitted in the following categories: Augmented Reality Advancement, Medical Breakthrough and X-Factor Innovation.

“When you put innovators, industry experts, potential investors and NASA’s chief technologists together and add that spark of fresh ideas, what we all learn can provide a catalyst that could light the way to the future of exploration,” said Kira Blackwell, NASA iTech program executive for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

FGC Plasma Solutions has worked with NASA before. The company partnered with NASA’s Glenn Research Center to run tests on its plasma-assisted fuel injector. That work aligns with NASA's goals for its Aeronautics Mission Directorate to transition to low-carbon propulsion and enable commercial supersonic transport.

At Argonne, FGC Plasma Solutions is furthering that ignition work with the help of world-leading engineers in the field of combustion science. Gomez del Campo earned a spot in the first cohort of Chain Reaction Innovations. CRI has supported his research at Argonne for two years and, along with the Polsky Center at the University of Chicago and the Purdue Foundry at Purdue University, mentors him on building a startup. CRI is part of the Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Office in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

“If successful, our plasma-assisted fuel injector concept will enable more compact, lower nitrogen oxides and fuel-flexible combustors with improved emissions and fuel burn characteristics,” Gomez del Campo said. “We look forward to exploring ways to continue to collaborate with NASA to meet the needs of our aerospace industry.”

NASA iTech is an initiative by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and is managed by the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia.

Chain Reaction Innovations is part of the Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Office in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy’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.

EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) supports early-stage research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promote American economic growth and energy security.

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.