A Laramie business that originated at the University of Wyoming has received a $1.2 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that will be used to fund the continued development and commercialization of instrumentation platforms for the nondestructive manipulation and analysis of micro- and nano-sized materials.
“Particle identification and manipulation on the micro- to nanoscale level are increasingly necessary for advanced technologies, such as the semiconductor and electronics industries and nuclear forensics and nuclear nonproliferation,” says Kristin Di Bona, CEO and co-founder of Wyonics and an adjunct professor of chemistry at UW. “An advanced instrumental platform will be developed and prototyped to specifically manipulate and analyze these small particles. A key application of the technology will be the analysis of very small individual particles of actinide-containing materials, which is critical to ongoing nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”
Radioactive elements, such as uranium and plutonium used in nuclear power and nuclear weapons, are considered actinides.
Caleb Hill, an associate professor of chemistry at UW and co-director of UW’s Nuclear Energy Research Center, is the other co-founder of Wyonics.
Wyonics is a scientific innovation company founded in 2017, with the mission to develop sustainable technologies for Wyoming and beyond. The company’s scientific staff, which brings together researchers from the UW Department of Chemistry and the private sector, possesses a combined expertise spanning the chemical, biological and materials science fields. Additional ongoing projects at Wyonics include the development and commercialization of low-temperature processes for the extraction and recovery of rare earth elements and other critical materials from alternative sources and the development of biodegradable filtration materials to combat future pandemics.
The SBIR Phase II grant runs for two years, beginning this month and ending in August 2024.
Hill will receive a $200,000 subcontract from this work, which will fund the work of one full-time UW graduate student and two or three UW undergraduate students during the grant’s duration. Declan McDonald, a senior from Littleton, Colo., majoring in chemistry and chemical engineering, is a part of the research team.
This award continues and advances the work from the company’s $200,000 Phase I grant obtained last year, Di Bona says.
“Phase I thoroughly demonstrated the feasibility of the proposed technology, showing that it can serve as an ideal tool for the manipulation of small-scale particles and is compatible with any desired ex situ analytical methods,” she says. “Phase II will focus on the continued development of the manipulation platform demonstrated in Phase I, with the ultimate goal of producing a functional prototype system for commercialization. Prototyping, software development, customer outreach and beta testing in Phase II will produce a robust commercial-ready platform, capable of meeting the needs of current and emerging high-tech applications.”