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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Battery startup flexes its muscles at Rice Business Plan Competition

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The Ateios team receives the NASA Space Innovation Exploration Award from Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic female astronaut. 

San Diego, CA, April 17, 2018 -- A UC San Diego startup company that makes printable, stretchable and flexible batteries took home $50,000 and placed third in the elevator pitch competition portion of the Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University.

Ateios—formerly known as Ocella— is the brainchild of a team of graduate and undergraduate students from nanoengineering Professors Shirley Meng and Joe Wang’s labs at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

The company was selected from among more than 700 startups from colleges and universities around the world to compete against the top 42 teams and ideas at Rice. Their elevator pitch won third prize, and their business plan made it to the semifinals. The company also was awarded NASA’s $50,000 Space Innovation Exploration award, which they received from Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic female astronaut.

Ateios is developing printed batteries—a first— which could be used to power everything from wearable devices like smart watches and fitness trackers, to applications in clothing, solar cells and electronics. The team is part of the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur’s (IGE) Technology Accelerator program at UC San Diego, and plans to transition into IGE’s new Business Accelerator now that they’re ready to scale their startup.

Rajan Kumar, the CEO of Ateios, said the batteries can stretch thanks to a substance containing a hyper-elastic polymer, a key ingredient in the inks that are printed to make the final batteries. These can be printed directly on fabric or on materials that can adhere to the skin, and are stable enough to be worn for long periods of time.

NASA took interest in Ateios’ battery revolution because of the potential for the batteries to be used to maintain stable temperatures in space suits without the need for bulky and heavy devices. Ateios said this is not an application they’re currently developing, but may do so in the future.

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Rajan Kumar, CEO of Ateios, holding a shirt with a sample of the startup's flexible battery printed on it.

Jennifer Miller, chief technology officer of Ateios and a nanoengineering undergraduate student, said the process of starting a company has been a crucial part of her education.

“It has been an amazing journey, watching this technology start in a research lab and move on to securing a lab space on campus, filling that lab space with equipment, getting in there and restarting research and development in a new space and then seeing it go another step further and get traction at an event as large as the Rice Business Plan Competition,” Miller said.

In addition to Kumar and Miller, the students representing Ateios at the competition were: Carlos Munoz, master’s student in bioengineering; Xinyu Liu and Karan Sheth, who are undergraduates in nanoengineering and chemical engineering respectively; and Kartik Sharma, a master’s of finance student at the Rady School of Management. 

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