Empa Entrepreneur Fellowship welcomes new fellow

Three researchers have embarked on an entrepreneurial journey to turn their research into a viable startup. They have secured funding and support from the Empa Entrepreneur Fellowship program. The newest recipient is etavalve GmbH, the startup creating a novel system to tackle the problem of industrial heat waste.

The Empa Entrepreneur Fellowship is awarded to Empa researchers who want to establish a start-up based on their research. The fellowship offers financial support with a total value of 135,000 Swiss francs for 12 months. Since its launch in 2022, the fellowship has been awarded to three companies in three calls. “Our jury is very strict with the projects they found, which is why there was no fellow in the first call, explains a correspondent from Empa. The first call had no candidate; however, in the second call, two researchers secured a place in the program.

Abdessalem Aribia, CTO and co-founder of BTRY, is developing an innovative, sustainable, and efficient solid-state Li-ion battery that can charge in one minute. The BTRY team is thus on a mission to accelerate the global transition to clean energy. BTRY has been incorporated and secured additional pre-seed funding. The second fellow is Subas Scheibler, who is developing nanoparticles for cancer therapy. The nanoparticles are required for hyperthermia treatment, in which they are applied to a tumour and exposed to a magnetic field, heating the tumour up to 45 degrees and thus killing the cancer cells. As a result, even tumours that are difficult to access and highly branched growths, such as glioblastoma tumours in the brain, can be effectively treated. His research focuses on magnetic thin films as a basis for the production of nanoparticles and their applications in biomedicine. He received the fellowship to achieve industrial production of magnetic nanoparticles via thin-film processes.

The latest addition to the program is Etavalve GmbH, a spin-off of Empa and ETH Zurich co-founded by Empa scientists Andyn Omanovic and hydraulics expert Wolfgang Schneider. Aiming to tackle the challenge of industrial waste heat, Etavalve is developing a new type of piston machine that uses waste heat from processes in the metal or cement industry and other areas more efficiently than current methods that work with turbines. The cylinder and piston form a closed space, enabling high energy yield whereby the waste heat is converted into mechanical power via the pistons, which is ultimately used to generate electricity. This process is enabled by the innovative, flexible control of the valves. Commercialisation is anticipated to start at the beginning of 2025, with a pilot machine built for the energy supplier IWB in Basel, followed by series production.

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