College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Graduate students present clean energy product at Clean Energy Challenge

From left to right: Casey Nelson, Matt Kieffer, Juan Proano, Wendy Borja, Edson Vendrusculo and Bernardo del Campo.
From left to right: Casey Nelson, Matt Kieffer, Juan Proano, Wendy Borja, Edson Vendrusculo and Bernardo del Campo.

ISU graduate students spent Tuesday, April 14, in Chicago to present their product ARTichar, a renewable activated carbon used for water filtration, at the Clean Energy Challenge.

The six students represent Advanced Renewable Technology International, a company that was founded in 2013 by ISU students.

Bernardo del Campo and Matthew Kieffer, both graduate students in mechanical engineering, pitched their process of making the renewable activated charcoal 20 to 40 percent cheaper than their competitors.

ARTichar is made from renewable biomass such as agriculture refuse, wood debris and milling pellets.

Clean Energy Trust, a non-profit that helps fund clean energy companies across the Midwest, sponsors The Clean Energy Challenge. This year, the challenge made a total of $1 million available in investment prizes.

“The main goal of the challenge is to continue to fund clean energy and clean energy technology in the Midwest,” said Michelle Dutton of Resolute Consulting.

Clean Energy Trust started the challenge in 2011, and has grown the competition into the million dollar event it is today.

The challenge is split among five “student track” companies and nine “early stage” companies. The student track companies presented in the morning and the early stage companies presented in the afternoon.

Del Campo said there were between 100 and 150 people in the audience, which was a mix of investors and the public, as he and Kieffer presented. In the presentation, Kieffer said there are 30 ISU students working with the team.

Students networked during a provided lunch. Networking is a major part of the event, del Campo said.

“We talked to 20 or 30 people interested in what we are doing and I think that’s the most valuable part of the Clean Energy Challenge,” del Campo said.

ARTi did not win any of the investment prizes. Del Campo said the contacts are a lot more valuable than winning investment money. The students also had an investors meeting on April 15.

Another Iowa company, Johnston-based Igor, won a $25,000 investment and a $100,000 investment.

ARTi currently works with clients in municipal water treatment, bio-diesel and ethanol production as well as industrial effluent treatment. The company is based in Prairie City and has a full-time staff so students can focus more on developing the technology, del Campo said.

ARTi’s clients are mainly in the Des Moines metro area, but they hope to expand to the entire Midwest. Their current method of development can create 2 pounds of ARTIchar per day from 5 pounds of biomass.

The six students didn’t have plans for after the event.

“I think we’ve got a bunch of homework to finish, so not much fun,” del Campo said.

Casey Nelson, Juan Proano, Wendy Borja and Edson Vendrusculo were the other ARTi representatives at the Clean Energy Challenge.

This story was originally written by Greg Zwiers of the Iowa State Daily.