MU’s College of Engineering has not one, but two faculty members whose companies were honored as R&D 100 finalists, an international recognition given to only 100 companies worldwide.
President and Co-Founder Hongbin “Bill” Ma of ThermAvant Technologies and Co-Founder Patrick Pinhero of RedWave Energy are professors at the College whose innovations have made monumental impacts in the energy industry.
R&D 100 finalists are chosen from amongst the top international innovators by a panel of 50 judges who review each application through a rigorous selection process.
Ma’s company, ThermAvant Technologies, was awarded for its revolutionary Oscillating Heat Pipe (OHP) for High-Power Electronics Thermal Management. This OHP regulates and transfers waste heat “through internal fluidly charged microchannels,” according to Ma.
The technology is in extremely high demand and is being used by aerospace tycoons such as SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell and Raytheon.
Ma said, “This year, we have about 7 million product orders, and next year, [it] probably will go up [to] 14 [million]— at least 10 million product orders. Last year, our heat pipe [was] used for SpaceX; they launched it for [a] satellite. It’s very effective and low cost. The problem is that no other company can manufacture these kinds of cooling devices, only us.”
Currently, ThermAvant holds multiple patents on the OHP technology, which allows them to be the sole producers.
While winning the award came as a shock to Ma and his company, they are focused on what is coming next.
“Right now we are developing a new type of laptop heatsink for Intel,” Ma said.
ThermAvant recently doubled its manufacturing space and is working on new innovations for everyday people with its heat regulating technology.
“What we try to do is make people have a better life, enjoy life. That is our mission,” Ma said.
Ma credits much of his success to his students who aided him in conducting the research behind the OHPs. Some of these students began working with Ma as undergraduate students, continued in their graduate studies and now are employed alongside him at ThermAvant Technologies.
“The company, I think why we are doing so good, the reason is because I have a number of my former students, I think all of them graduated from MU. They made a big contribution. They made the big progress and helped a lot. They are so smart,” he said.
Pinhero’s company, RedWave Energy, was also a recipient of the R&D 100 award for its groundbreaking developments on Antenna Coupled THz (ACT) Film.
This innovation “collects heat in the form of infrared electromagnetic radiation and rectifies this into electrical power. The device is founded upon the excellent inherent resonant character of antenna and the high-frequency properties of tunneling diodes. This technology will help address heat loss in many industrial processes,” said the co-chair of the Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department.
Pinhero celebrated the achievement for RedWave Energy, but it is not the first time the company has been recognized for its developments. Back in 2007, it won two NASA Nano50 Awards.
Pinhero said, “For the company, it is important from the perspective of receiving peer-recognition. However, RedWave Energy does not have the luxury to rest on this laurel. There are many time-sensitive deliverables that the current focus of the company does not wish to deviate its focus from developing a disruptive [or] transformative product for the energy sector.”
Moving forward, RedWave Energy is taking the next steps to grow the business and its name.
“The company is shifting away from the more applied- and bridge- research that [was] needed to work through the early stages of the company and is now focused on prototype manufacture and testing. The earlier R&D (research and development) was synergistic with the mission of academia, but the current commercialization effort is being done in commercial laboratory space leased in Boulder, Colo.”