This past weekend, a start-up company co-founded by CALS biochemist Ron Raines won top prize—and $100,000 in prize money—at the second annual Clean Energy Challenge, a major competition among Midwest start-ups sponsored by Clean Energy Trust, a Chicago-based nonprofit that supports start-ups and entrepreneurs in the region. The company, called Hyrax Energy, Inc., is developing technology discovered in Raines’ laboratory that uses ionic liquids to convert biomass into sugars and other valuable fuel precursors.
“I believe this technology can transform the clean tech industry,” says Raines. “The company is going to be based in Wisconsin, and I think its local impact could be large.”
Hyrax is the first company to emerge from the CALS-led Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
Raines provided this additional information about the company:
Hyrax Energy, Inc. is developing bio-refineries that can break down corn stover and other waste plant materials into fermentable sugars which are sold to manufacturers of renewable plastics, chemicals and fuels. The Hyrax platform is based on the use of ionic liquids. Excitement around these advanced solvents has built since they were shown to dissolve cellulosic biomass. However, a commercial process has not been developed until now because the cost of the ionic liquid was perceived to be too high and a reaction that efficiently degraded the biomass into its component building blocks was not known. Hyrax has solved both of those problems and established a dominant patent position in the field.