Ph.D. student Daniela Blanco adds to her already lengthy list of prizes

Blanco receives the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for her work towards more sustainability in the chemical industry and energy storage

Daniela Blanco in the lab

No one who has followed Daniela Blanco’s story at NYU Tandon — a story that includes garnering a $100,000 Technology Venture Prize at the NYU Stern $300K Entrepreneurship Challenge, the $20,000 top prize in the InnoVention Competition at Tandon, a $20,000 Stage II VentureWell grant, top prize in the hotly contested Greentech category of the University Startup World Cup, and the title of 2019 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year, to name just a few of her honors — will be very surprised to learn that she’s now adding yet another notch to her belt.

It was announced today that Blanco has received a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, which honors promising collegiate inventors around the country. She was recognized, in part, for her development of reactors for sustainable chemical processes.

Sustainability methods, she says, are often seen as “more expensive” or “too difficult,” so her research is focused on shifting this paradigm and finding feasible solutions for renewable energy integration in chemical reactions.

“Every day we interact with materials and products manufactured by the chemical industry, whether it be in the cars we drive or the clothing we wear,” she explained in her award-winning entry. “Chemical reactors, or the piece of equipment used to convert raw materials into useful products, are a key component of the chemical manufacturing process, but the reactors being used in current manufacturing processes are not sustainable because they use mostly heat from fossil fuels.”

Her solution: Because nylon manufacturing is one of the largest textile pollutants worldwide, she co-invented a chemical reactor that uses electricity rather than fossil fuel-derived heat to produce nylon, as well as other materials. Along with Tandon alum Myriam Sbeiti (‘18) — and with the help of Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Miguel Modestino — Blanco co-founded the startup Sunthetics, aimed at bringing her work to market and encouraging a more sustainable chemical industry that implements safe processes and reduces emissions.

Blanco, who is listed as a co-inventor in three patents, was also recognized by the Lemelson-MIT prize committee for her development of an optimized system for clean energy storage and hydrogen production, which could be used in situations such as natural disasters, when backup power is needed.

So while there’s little surprise here that she is bringing home yet another laurel, there’s plenty of excitement and a lot of pride that Blanco and Sunthetics are part of the Tandon community.