April 10, 2014

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Utah Innovation Awards


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Utah Innovation Awards

Inventing a Better Tomorrow

By Devin Felix, Rachel Madison and Heather Stewart, Illustrations by Juliann Law

April 10, 2014



Clean Technology & Energy Finalists

Clean Coke by EcoCoke

Clean Coke technology sounds like a way to clean up one of America’s favorite sodas, but it’s actually a unique process that makes the production of coke, a material essential for metals processing, more eco-friendly.

Approximately 500 million tons of coke is used throughout the world annually. Historically, it’s been made by a batch process using expensive coking coal in large, vertical slot ovens that produce high levels of emissions. Many have been shut down due to non-compliance with environmental regulations.

In contrast, the Clean Coke process makes it possible to control emissions. The process uses a different oven, which provides faster and more energy-efficient methods of heating coal. These differences make it possible to address the environmental, feedstock and cost issues associated with the coke industry. EcoCoke hopes the increased use of its technology will help to lower pollution worldwide.

Clean Coke technology was developed by Combustion Resources, Inc., an engineering consulting company in Provo. Combustion Resources donated the technology to Utah State University, which has subsequently licensed the technology to EcoCoke, which is commercializing the technology.

HiTech Natural Gas Membrane Reactor by Ceramatec, Inc.

Ceramatec’s HiTech Natural Gas Membrane Reactor combines efficiency with cost savings to convert natural gas to benzene, a high-value chemical with a global demand of 40 million tons annually, and hydrogen, a valuable fuel, in a single step with a more than 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Natural gas is six to eight times cheaper than petroleum on an energy content basis. Due to shale gas developments, the United States has become self-sufficient in natural gas, but still imports more than 50 percent of its crude oil as well as a significant fraction of benzene. Salt Lake-based Ceramatec is working to change this through its innovative process.

Producing benzene from natural gas is severely equilibrium limited. Normally, at 700 degrees Celsius, the total conversion is only 12 percent, but with Ceramatec’s membrane reactor, the conversion increases to nearly 100 percent. Additionally, the reactor can be deployed in a distributed manner to smaller gas fields, both onshore and offshore.

NuvoH2O Water Softening System by NuvoH2O 

A water softener is typically purchased for two main reasons: to eliminate hard water stains on dishes and clogging in showerheads and faucets. But most people don’t like to haul bags of salt into their home—typically the basement—to refill their water softener.

That’s why NuvoH20 has found a solution for salt-free, ecological water softening. Instead of salt, the company uses an FDA-approved, food-grade citrus formula to help lower the pH level and bind to existing minerals in hard water to prevent the formation of harmful scale.

And, unlike some water softeners that dump up to 400 gallons of waste water back into the environment, the NuvoH2O system wastes no water, uses no electricity and takes up a fraction of the space of a traditional water softener. NuvoH20 has determined that its system will ultimately cost a homeowner 50 to 80 percent less than a traditional salt water softener system. NuvoH20 is based out of Kaysville.

Honorable Mention

Net-Zero Carbon Design for the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building by GSBS Architects

Computer Hardware & Electrical Devices Finalists

LOGi FPGA Development Boards by ValentFX

Generating substantial buzz and a surprising Kickstarter haul of $114,000 last year, Utah startup ValentFX’s new line of LOGi field programmable gate array development boards, a group of integrated circuits designed to be configured by a customer or a designer after manufacturing, offers innovative and unique functionality to hobbyists and professionals alike.

ValentFX’s LOGi series aims to mitigate the sharp learning curve previously associated with FPGA development and significantly expands existing FPGA hardware interfaces and platforms. Prior to ValentFX’s development of the LOGi FPGA development boards, this type of functionality and ease-of-use was not possible.

ValentFX, based in Lehi, pinpointed what it saw as specific limitations of other FPGA development boards and was able to successfully overcome them with innovative design and functionality. ValentFX is hopeful that by providing expanded FPGA functionality to general electronics enthusiasts, the rate of technological advances worldwide will increase.

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