Three students and a post-doctoral researcher received the UAE Innovator Special Award from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment for their project FabCast Solutions, which was among the 1% of innovative applicants at the Climate Innovation Exchange (CLIX), a global marketplace that connects capital with transformational climate change concepts and solutions.
The FabCast Solutions team includes MSc in Electrical Engineering student Ayoob Alhammadi, MSc in Mechanical Engineering graduate Zainab Karam Alraeesi, PhD student Ibrahim Mustafa, and Post-Doctoral Researcher Dr. Rahmat Susantyoko.
“We are thrilled, excited, and feel motivated by winning this award! We realize that this is only the first milestone towards our big and very important goal, as we would like to see ourselves as the first UAE-based vanadium redox flow battery supplier, providing batteries for large-scale energy storage systems,” Alhammadi said, of their win.
The project was selected based on its patent-pending cost-effective solution, which helps in the manufacture of tunable, high-quality, fast-to-produce, and low-cost carbon nanotube (CNT) papers for integrated technologies, specifically, energy storage, water treatment, and other niche markets.
FabCast Solutions was selected out of 27 shortlisted finalists from a total of 312 applicants at the CLIX competition. In all, five projects won awards in three categories during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2018. CLIX invited entrants to demonstrate innovative thinking and leverage technology to develop solutions in one of three key areas – agriculture, clean mobility and air quality. A panel of judges selected the semi-finalists over three rounds of assessment based on the challenges, solutions, innovations, technology and business models outlined in the submissions.
Judges selected the 27 shortlisted finalists to compete in the event final to pitch for funding from 12 investors representing seed, angel, family offices, high net-worth individuals and a prominent venture capital. Some investors travelled from as far as China, the UK, Lebanon and California’s Silicon Valley to explore the projects.
FabCast Solutions’ technology has been proven in the laboratory to significantly increase the performance of flow batteries and lithium-ion batteries. It therefore has the potential to advance a variety of energy applications, such as car charging stations and electric grid stability.
Alraeesi credited their win with the strength of their pitch, explaining that: “Our pitch was excellent, which was important to build credibility and interest between us and the judges.” She is convinced of FabCast Solutions’ technology potential for the market, which is forecast to expand significantly in the coming years.
Alraeesi: “The world needs our technology. We are an excellent team of young researchers, and we seek to solve important issues of energy storage. Renewable energy prices such as solar panels have been declining substantially throughout the past years. However, energy storage systems have remained a major hurdle. Our product is unique because it focuses on improving the cost and efficiency of energy storage systems, which, in the Lithium-Ion, advanced lead acid, flow batteries, and sodium sulfur, for on-grid and off-grid application segment, is currently estimated to be a USD7 billion market.”
Now that the team’s research has been externally validated by the CLIX Innovator Special Award, they face the next challenge to commercialization. As stated by Dr. Susantyoko, developing a working prototype is their next step to become a UAE-based battery and energy storage systems supplier or manufacturer.
He said: “FabCast Solutions is currently in the process of meeting with investors and potential collaborators, and we look forward to seek funding to enable full validation of a large scale full battery prototype.’’
Mustafa explained: “Our technology is unprecedented. When we used our materials in flow batteries at lab scale, the batteries showed high efficiencies at low costs. However, all of this has been proven at the laboratory-scale. Now, we are working towards getting the same performance specifications in a marketable working prototype.”
The team thanked former faculty member and team’s supervisor Dr. Saif Almheiri, who led the electrochemical laboratory at Khalifa University’s Masdar City Campus, for his technical and business guidance.
Alhammadi added: “We are grateful to the help we received from our faculty. We also thank the Office of Technology Management & Innovation, as they helped us by providing extended advice and support, in addition to giving us important insights into entrepreneurship and innovation.”