Executive Summary:

          Our project, HydraPower, is a new, innovate technology that produces clean, alternative energy. HydraPower functions by capturing and generating energy from light, specifically infrared (IR) light. The device collects energy from ambient IR light, which is ubiquitously present at all times of day. Therefore, it provides stable power at all times of day without needing additional power supplied by rechargeable batteries. The ability to generate constant, stable power is a stark improvement from solar photovoltaic technologies, which are limited by sunlight.

          The total cost of this project is $12,000. With this funding, we will create three fully functional prototypes by September 2015 and install them in UW campus buildings in late September, prior to the 2015-16 academic year. We’ve broken our project’s timeline into two phases. The first phase includes the physical development of three prototypes over the next six months, from April through September 2015. The second phase includes the physical installation of these devices in buildings on the UW campus, as well as continued development of prototypes that provide increased energy outputs. Funding from the Campus Sustainability Fund is intended for phase one, which will support the creation of three fully-functional devices to utilize in UW buildings for phase two. Currently, we have formal approval from the W.H. Foege Building to install one device and an accompanying poster in the building. Although we have received verbal confirmation, we are awaiting the final signature from Parrington Hall to set up the device and poster. Our third building site is still to be determined; however we are targeting one of the campus libraries in order to maximize visibility to the entire student body. Other than their locations, there are no differences between the three devices.

          HydraPower’s brief history began in 2010 as a research project developed by Kurt Kung, a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering. The initial idea for this technology stemmed from basic water research in Dr. Gerald Pollack’s laboratory. Upon realizing the technology’s potential, Kurt began to develop an initial prototype which generated one nano-watt of energy. Currently, the technology can produce nearly one milli-watt of energy output. Despite the relatively low power output, the technology’s future potential is demonstrated by its recent history of exponential improvement. The output has increased to create nearly 1,000,000 times the energy since its first iteration, and our current research suggests that similar increases in energy output are feasible.

          We will begin by using these devices to help power wireless sensors in several campus buildings. Specifically, our device will be placed alongside current remote sensors in these buildings, where they will initially help generate power needed without being the sole power source. As our prototypes prove their consistency, they will then become the main power source for these sensors.

Student Involvement:

          Student involvement is a critical component of our project. Initially an independent project led by Kurt Kung, HydraPower has evolved over the past several years with the aid of students from a wide variety of academic disciplines. In addition to Kurt, the current HydraPower team consists of an undergraduate engineering student and three graduate students from the Evans School of Public Affairs who work to increase public awareness and education. Each team member will be enrolled as a full-time student throughout the project period, with the exception of Kurt Kung, who will be conducting post-doctoral work for the Bioengineering department.

           In addition to being designed by a group of UW students, this project will also engage the campus community by being visible in prominent campus buildings. Although the goal of our project is for the three devices to stand alone and function autonomously on a daily basis, there are various opportunities for interested parties to get involved with our project. Each of the three devices will be accompanied by a small poster which briefly explains how the device functions. These posters will also include contact information for students to get in touch with Kurt if they’re interested in joining our team or have any questions. Furthermore, each of the three devices will be set up to track motion, and our poster will invite students to wave and interact with the device. This added component is intended to engage the campus community in a more stimulating way than simple informative posters.

           There are ample opportunities for students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to get involved with the project. Engineering students who are interested in alternative and sustainable energy are welcome to volunteer to help in the lab with Kurt. Students who are interested in the technology may also volunteer to help with educational outreach throughout campus. Over time, students could also help us with feasibility studies to find other applications for the technology. 

Education & Outreach:

         This project is specifically designed to engage the campus community by being visible in prominent campus buildings. In the W.H. Foege Building, it is common to see posters lining the hallways that tout research of both graduate and undergraduate students. In Parrington Hall, it is equally common to find display cases filled with policy-related accomplishments of students and alumni. With our proposal, we hope to combine these display formats in order to educate students from across campus about the novel renewable energy research being done at the University of Washington. With CSF’s support, each HydraPower device installed will represent one more step toward a campus that benefits from sharing information and educating students across disciplines. Due to the scientific and policy relevance of our technology, this campaign will begin within the halls of Parrington Hall and Foege Building, with a third campus building site to be determined. 
          Our aim is to adequately publicize each HydraPower device while minimizing the physical impact to campus buildings. In order to do this, we will include a framed informational poster that includes the fully-functional HydraPower device, a bulletin for other research efforts at the University of Washington, contact information for students to get involved, and educational information regarding HydraPower devices. Specifically, information relative to HydraPower will include a variety of topics including a scientific introduction to the light spectrum, an explanation on how our technology harvests energy from infrared light, and a comparison of how HydraPower differs from other renewable energy technologies, such as solar power. 
          As previously mentioned, this also aims to provide an opportunity to highlight cross-disciplinary research in campus buildings. While buildings on campus do an excellent job advertising the accomplishments of students from within their respective disciplines, there is a relative lack of formal displays that facilitate sharing of interdisciplinary ideas. We hope to use our display as a way to not only highlight the value of the research behind HydraPower, but also to shed light on other current research efforts on campus. Thus, we intend to make other current research efforts on campus more widely known, in a format facilitated by renewable energy.
          Furthermore, the energy that a HydraPower prototype produces provides an opportunity to power a multitude of interactive display options. These interactive options could be used to record visitation when displayed in a high foot traffic areas. For example, a motion detector powered by our technology will be used to record visitors as they wave over the sensor in order to indicate they found the display enjoyable. Thus, the product of our proposal would simultaneously display our technology to the campus, serve as a format to share information on other current research efforts, and record the number of people who visited the display. Using this information we could quantify visitation rates, identify when displays begin to go unused, and potentially shift the displays to new areas of campus to find new audiences. These figures could also be used as a rough estimate to quantify measures of outreach.
Environmental Impact:
  • Energy Use
Project Longevity:

Our team is well-equipped to complete this project successfully. Kurt Kung, our team leader, has worked on developing this technology throughout his doctoral education at the UW. Our project currently has a staff mentor, Dr. Gerald Pollack, who has been an integral part of this project and will continue to support our team throughout the duration of the project timeline. Jason Huang, an undergraduate civil engineering student, works alongside Kurt on the technical aspects of the device. Lucas DuSablon, Forrest Howk and Xinying Zeng also bring extensive educational outreach and project management skills to our team. We have also established a transition plan to ensure the longevity of the project. Kurt Kung is scheduled to defend his doctoral dissertation in late May; however he intends on pursing post-doctoral research with his department after graduation, enabling him to continue to work on the project. All other team members will be full-time students during the 2015-16 school year. In the autumn of next academic year, our team will pursue adding additional team members as needed, based on interest, need and skill-sets. In the circumstance that one or more of the devices falters during its use, we will utilize our budgeted funds to repair or replace the non-functional components. The vast majority of problems that may arise would require fixes to the device’s electronics or sensors, resulting in minimal costs. In the unfortunate event that major damage occurs to one or more of the devices, we will likely need to perform repairs that could take weeks to months. If the device is implemented smoothly and no repairs are needed, HydraPower is committed to returning these unused funds to the Campus Sustainability Fund upon the completion of the project.

Environmental Problem:

          If sustainability is to continue as a priority for our nation, state, city and campus community, more renewable energy technologies are required. Technologies such as solar power and alternative fuels provide excellent alternatives to their wasteful counterparts; however there is no single technology that can solve all of our world’s energy problems. A true portfolio solution will require a variety of complementary technologies that, when implemented together as a group, could combine to meet future energy demand. Therefore, there is a stark need for not only more renewable energy, but new types of renewable energy. HydraPower presents the University of Washington with an opportunity to facilitate a new technology. 
          The HydraPower device is specifically designed to reduce the University’s environmental impact while simultaneously making campus more sustainable. Each device captures ambient IR light and transmits it into energy without any waste or emissions. Although the tangible energy saved will be negligible due to the current level of output each device is capable of, the technology will generate previously unharnessed energy. Future large-scale applications of the technology will result in a greater environmental impact. All technologies have their first application, and funding from the CSF will serve as a vital first-step toward future applications that will have increasingly larger environmental impacts. Additionally, an investment in this technology helps the UW diversify its sustainable energy portfolio. 
          In terms of the device itself, the environmental impact is minimal. In contrast to technologies that are comprised of large numbers of small components and rare earth metals that are wasteful to produce and harvest, our device is comprised mostly of one small piece of plastic. The device also utilizes water as its medium, which is both renewable and sustainable. Future iterations of these devices will aim to utilize a more ecologically-friendly material than plastic; however cost constraints limit us to 3-D printing.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

          We will measure the performance of this prototype in several ways upon its implementation in UW buildings. The remote sensor will keep a running tally of the amount of energy generated, allowing us to measure the amount of energy generated by each device. Each device will also include a small sensor, which will count the number of passersby who walk by the device each day. These quantitative measure will provide us with crucial data that we can use as an initial benchmark for future iterations of the device.

          As mentioned in the student outreach section of the proposal, we will also measure the impact of the project in terms of student involvement. Despite inherent difficulties in measuring and quantifying metrics such as total students reached, the device’s location in campus buildings ensures students will interact with the devices on a daily basis. Furthermore, we will include small informational cards near each remote sensor for students to read, allowing them to learn more about this unique, homegrown technology and how they can get involved in our project. HydraPower will conduct informal bi-monthly surveys in buildings with the devices to determine if students are seeing the devices and learning about the technology.

          Due to the relative infancy of the HydraPower device, each device will be installed on its own instead of replacing a different device. Therefore, we will not be able to measure the amount of electricity saved, only the amount of clean energy generated. This metric will serve both as a benchmark for our team and an opportunity to determine practical applications of the device. In the future, HydraPower will utilize the data and implement these devices in lieu of other devices that use energy. 

Total amount requested from the CSF: $12,000
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
3-D Printing Service Fee$2,0001$2,000
Nafion (synthetic polymer)$1,0001$1,000
RA Position Funding Match (This is $1,128/month for 6 months, or half of the regular RA salary. Bioengineering has committed to match this amount.)$6,7681$6,768
Repairs (speculative, in case of need)$2821$282

Non-CSF Sources:

OrganizationApplication StatusAmount of Funding SoughtProject TimelinePurpose
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programIn developmentTBDJanuary 2016 - December 2016Development of 10-20 additional prototypes; continued research and development of the technology
UW Green Seed Fund ProgramAwaiting next application period$50,000January 2016 - December 2016Research Funding
Project Completion Total: $12,000


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Continued development of three (3) prototypesApril 2015 – September 2015September 15, 2015
Installation of three (3) fully-functional prototypes; one in the W.H. Foege Building, one in Parrington Hall, and one in a third building that has yet to be determinedSeptember 2015September 19, 2015
Continued research into expanding the capacity of the devicesOctober 2015 – March 2016March 31, 2016
Informal verbal feedback from students in each buildingBi-monthly, beginning in October, 2015March 31, 2016