A Closer Look into Nelumbo
What is Nelumbo?
Nelumbo is a startup company that specializes in superhydrophobic coatings. Their unique technology is capable of both water and oil repellency while preserving heat transfer. These capabilities can significantly reduce common problems such as decreased energy efficiency and contaminant build-up found in many industrial processes. Moreover, their coating Omniphobe™boasts of an incredibly small size—200X thinner than a human hair—and is substantially cheaper than competitive products. These qualities allow for countless applications, the first of which is commercial-scale air conditioning.
Liam Berryman and Lance Brockway, co-founders of Nelumbo, were researching hydrophobic technology at SinBerBEST when they first developed the product that led to Nelumbo. Their research was focused on the generation of materials that can be applied onto any geometry at any scale. In the lab, the two worked together to create a hydrophobic coating that can be applied using a dip coat process, as opposed to the less efficient and more costly brushing method that is typically used to apply coatings today. Moreover, because SinBerBEST (the funding source for their original research) focuses much of its research on the tropical environment in Singapore, Nelumbo’s technology has been developed and tested to work in even the harshest of tropical environments. This testing contributed to an overarching goal of Nelumbo: to create materials and products that are affordable and accessible not just to those in economically developed areas with moderate climates, but to everyone.
Since the technology was developed, Liam and Lance have published two provisional patents and currently have six papers in the editing and publishing phases. Nelumbo was also awarded first place at the Berkeley Cleantech University Competition, hosted by BERC and the U.S. Department of Energy. For this, Nelumbo received a $100,000 non-equity based grant and advancement to the national finals (June 2016). Finally, Nelumbo has been accepted for the Cleantech to Market program, which will help them develop their business to bring the technology to a larger audience.
Liam states that BECI, and, specifically, Sean Wihera of BECI have been instrumental in Nelumbo’s success by advising Nelumbo and pushing forward exciting projects for the company. One such project involved coating a cooling coil on the rooftop of Sutardja Dai Hall on Berkeley’s campus.
Nelumbo Today and its Future
Currently, Nelumbo’s main focuses are testing and building partnerships. Hence, the company is working to meet industry standards for durability, writing grants, and talking to potential industrial partners, like Chevron and Bosch.
While the digital world is constantly redefining our notion of technological advancement, the chemical world has tended to update its materials less quickly. Nelumbo is determined to change this. As the company continues to grow, their goal is to quickly and effectively expand existing materials’ applications and create new materials that are affordable, accessible, and innovative.