Introducing the 2014-2015 Y-Prize Winners

By Michelle Eckert, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Mack Institute

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Mack Institute News site.

“The most exciting work happens in teams. To impact the world, it takes working across disciplinary lines.”

– Kate Stebe, Penn Engineering, Y-Prize Competition Grand Finale 2015

On January 28, 2015, four cross-disciplinary teams of students faced off at Penn’s Singh Center for Nanotechnology. The students, who ranged from undergraduate to PhD students and represented three schools across the university, had come to pitch their ideas for commercializing Penn nanotechnology in the third annual Y-Prize Competition. Each presentation represented months of intensive work to devise a new application for the technology and craft a viable business plan for launching the idea.

We are pleased to announce the 2014-2015 Grand Prize Winners:


Y-Prize-2014-2015-Winners smAshwin Amurthur (W’15/SEAS’15) and Teddy Guenin (W’15/SEAS’15)

Teddy and Ashwin are seniors enrolled in dual degree programs in Penn Engineering and the Wharton School. They will be awarded $5000 and licensing rights to commercialize their application of Penn nanotechnology.

The winning idea: There are currently no effective ways for drilling companies to detect trace amounts of harmful leaked fracking fluid into groundwater at depths of around ~300ft. These leaks present themselves when pipeline casings splinter and crack during high-pressure fracking operations. GFET-Frack Technologies proposes to leverage the high sensitivity of graphene via field effect transistors for the specific detection of trace amounts of benzene, a common component of fracking fluid, in groundwater samples. Intensely accurate and reliable detection will enable drilling companies to ensure there is minimal contamination; that way, they can better inform their extraction partners of leaked casings (lost revenue and costly if undetected) while also helping municipalities ensure the viability of public groundwater reservoirs.