Skip to main content

ORNL welcomes new entrepreneurial research fellows to Innovation Crossroads

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., April 3, 2018—Oak Ridge National Laboratory today welcomed a second group of technology innovators to join Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast’s only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

Selected through a merit-based process, these scientists and engineers will have access to world-class science expertise and capabilities at ORNL, including Titan, the nation’s most powerful supercomputer; the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, DOE’s largest advanced manufacturing research center; and the Spallation Neutron Source, offering atomic-level insight into advanced materials. The innovators also will be partnered with a powerful network of mentoring organizations in the Southeast to help them develop business strategies to advance their breakthroughs to market.

The second cohort of Innovation Crossroads fellows and their projects include:*

Donald DeRosa: High Voltage Electrolytes for Ultracapacitors

DeRosa is developing a high voltage electrolyte to significantly lower the cost and size of ultracapacitor modules. The resulting lower cost, smaller modules can be used in tandem with lithium ion batteries to dramatically improve the efficiency, range, and longevity of hybrid and electric vehicles. DeRosa is a doctoral candidate in nanoscience at the State University of New York at Albany and chief technology officer of Eonix.

Shane McMahon: Roll-to-Roll Manufacturing of Highly Crystalline Thin-Film Semiconductor Substrates

McMahon is developing a novel thin-film semiconductor recrystallization process that grows highly crystalline silicon and germanium thin-films as precursor substrates for flexible electronic devices. These flexible, large-area substrates will serve as a platform technology for thin-film transistors, sensors, displays, lighting, and photovoltaics. McMahon is a doctoral candidate in nanoengineering at the State University of New York at Albany and is founder and chief executive officer of Lux Semiconductors.

Justin Nussbaum: Large Area Projection Sintering

Nussbaum is developing a manufacturing grade, additive manufacturing (AM) system, called Large Area Projection Sintering (LAPS), that offers many advantages over new and traditional AM technologies. With LAPS, components can be economically created with increased production rates, reduced peak processing temperatures and extended exposure times, enabling processing of a broader range of materials while also providing superior mechanical properties. Nussbaum is a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida.

Megan O’Connor: Electrochemical Recovery of Rare Earth and Specialty Elements

O’Connor is developing a recycling technology that utilizes carbon nanotube membranes for enhanced separation and recovery of solid rare earth and specialty elements (RESE) oxides.  This technology will provide a high-throughput electrochemical recovery device for recycling RESE as an alternative to the conventional energy-intensive extraction and refining processes currently used to obtain these metals for manufacturing. O’Connor holds a PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Duke University and is co-founder and chief technology officer of Nth Cycle.

Matthew Smith: Thermally Conductive 3D Printing Filaments

Smith’s new class of high thermal conductivity plastic composite material aims to improve heat dissipation, allowing for metal replacement and light-weighting, cost and component reductions, and improved performance and reliability. These materials also exhibit the unique ability to be 3D printed, allowing thermal engineers to rapidly and cheaply prototype multi-functional thermal solutions and enabling the design of heat transfer products that cannot be manufactured using traditional methods. Smith holds a PhD in materials science and engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is co-founder and chief technology officer of TCPoly.

"We are pleased to welcome the second group of entrepreneurs to Innovation Crossroads," said ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia. "We look forward to supporting these young innovators as they work to advance their early science to benefit American manufacturing and clean energy.”

Innovation Crossroads, which welcomed its first cohort of innovators in May 2017, is one of DOE's Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs designed to provide unique support to science-based startups in order to help advance game-changing technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. The two-year fellowship provides a cost-of-living stipend, comprehensive business development plan assistance, and up to $350,000 to use on collaborative R&D at ORNL, the nation's largest science and energy laboratory.

Entrepreneurs in Innovation Crossroads’ cohort one have marked success in advancing their early-stage technologies and demonstrating their capabilities to investors. For instance, Anna Douglas of SkyNano Technologies recently won a Crowd Favorite prize presented by SunTrust Bank in the regional Innov865 2017 Startup Day Pitch Competition. She is working in the Innovation Crossroads program to advance the growth of high-quality carbon nanotubes from ambient carbon dioxide, with benefits for advanced energy storage and lighter composite materials.

Innovation Crossroads is one of three DOE Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs. These programs, funded by the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) within DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), address critical gaps in human capital by providing fellowships and two-year institutional homes where talented innovators become first-time entrepreneurs.

“Innovation Crossroads and our other Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs help promising innovators harness the capabilities of the national labs to turn their discoveries into viable products and American businesses,” said AMO Director Rob Ivester. “We want to encourage advanced technology innovation that in turn spurs economic growth and new jobs in the United States.”

Applications for cohort three of Innovation Crossroads will open in fall 2018.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the DOE's Office of Science. The DOE Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.

EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) supports early-stage research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promote American economic growth and energy security.

*A video introducing the second cohort innovators is available here: For detailed project summaries and biographical information, see the Innovation Crossroads at Jennifer Burke