PowerBridgeNY Powers On

The Proof-of-Concept Center’s Latest Cohort Includes Three Teams from NYU Tandon

PowerBridge NY Ignition Grant

Jeff Laut of Manifold Robotics received a second round of PowerBridgeNY funding for the small-scale autonomous robotic vehicle that collects data on water quality

PowerBridgeNY, a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)-sponsored proof-of-concept center established in 2013, leverages clean energy innovations that originate in university research labs to create new energy businesses in the state.  Since its launch, the center has amassed a solid track record in identifying promising early-stage technologies and funding the translational work needed to get them out of the lab and into the marketplace.

In 2016 Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Maurizio Porfiri and post-doctoral researcher, Jeff Laut, caught the attention of PowerBridgeNY with their small-scale autonomous robotic vehicle, which is able to collect data on water quality, eliminating the need for a full-sized boat and dedicated crew and making the process magnitudes more efficient and cost-effective.

Naming their enterprise Manifold Robotics, they used PowerBridgeNY funding to talk to potential customers, assess the competitive landscape, refine their prototype, and develop a go-to-market strategy.

On March 6, 2018, they received a second round of PowerBridgeNY funding: a $50,000 Ignition Grant, which, as the name implies, is to be used to take their startup to the next level. “We are already differentiated from our competitors because our vehicle is exceptionally customizable,” Laut says, explaining that in addition to water quality sensors, customers can outfit the boat with their own sensors and hardware tailored to specific research needs. “It’s also trustworthy and robust no matter what the payload — a must when a customer is equipping it with expensive sonar and other devices.” The Ignition Grant, he says, will be used to differentiate themselves further and to develop intellectual property such as computer vision algorithms that will enable the craft to navigate even better. “We want to be a ubiquitous presence in the world of water-data collection,” Laut concludes, “and PowerBridgeNY is fueling our progress towards that goal.”

At the March 6 event, two other Tandon-affiliated teams successfully vied to follow the example of Manifold Robotics, throwing their hats in the ring for PowerBridgeNY Validation Grants, meant to fund customer discovery, prototyping, and field testing.

Additional Grant Winners:


Powerbridge Lazaron

Comprised of Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Nikhil Gupta and doctoral student Yi Yang, who won $150,000 for their fiber-optic loop sensor to monitor the condition of costly wind-turbine blades. The small, easily installed device will protect the expensive equipment with better accuracy and greater convenience than human inspection. 

Brooklyn BioScience 

Powerbridge Brooklyn BioScience
Brooklyn BioScience

Comprised of Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Jin Montclare and students Andrew Olsen and Priya Katyal, who garnered $50,000 toward their development of a low-cost and ecologically friendly enzyme for the remediation and detoxification of a class of common pesticides, a project of great interest to vintners and other growers of high-value crops.

"We are extremely proud of Manifold Robotics, Lazaron, and Brooklyn BioScience," Kurt Becker, the Vice Dean for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship at Tandon and the principal investigator on the PowerBridgeNY program for NYU, said. "I believe each of these teams and startups is doing important work, and each exemplifies the Tandon ethos of creating technology that meets real-world needs and serves society. It is gratifying that NYSERDA and PowerBridgeNY have recognized their potential and promise."

Also winning a Validation Grant was Professor of Chemistry Alexej Jerschow from the NYU College of Arts and Science. He, postdoc Emilia Silletta, and doctoral candidate Mohaddese Mohammadi have launched Battery Fingerprint Tech, an enterprise focused on battery diagnostics for manufacturers and users, aimed at improving capacity, reliability, and safety.