Carnegie Mellon University
July 13, 2015

Newell Washburn and Chetali Gupta complete NSF I-Corps program

Associate Professor, Newell Washburn and MSE PhD student Chetali Gupta completed the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps) program at the New York City Regional Innovation Node (NYCRIN) to develop a business model for commercializing lignopolymer dispersants. With their business mentor Dr. Ryan Murphy of Solvay, they completed over 50 interviews with researchers, sales people, business development specialists, and corporate vice presidents in a broad range of companies related to the construction industry as well as chemical companies who might also use lignopolymer dispersants. The I-Corps program provided critical insight into the commercialization process, and the team will be pushing into pilot-scale manufacturing and large-scale application testing in Fall 2015.

Lignin is an important component of wood that is the main byproduct of paper and cellulosic ethanol production. Led by Chetali, the Washburn lab at CMU demonstrated that grafting hydrophilic polymers onto a lignin core results in organic nanoparticles with high levels of interfacial activities. These lignopolymers are excellent dispersants for concrete, significantly improving the workability and reducing water requirements. Among eight participating teams in I-Corps, Chetali won the prize for Top Entrepreneurial Lead.

Chetali also made a short video about the CMU teams' experiences:

Newell Washburn, Chetali Gupta, Ryan Murphy

Newell Washburn,
Chetali Gupta and
Ryan Murphy