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At Cleantech Open, less is more

Biofuel interest wanes while efficiency in size and material, and cleaning the environment takes root as winning trends in the annual contest.

This year's Cleantech Open 2010 Business Competition winner, announced last week, is Puralytics, a company developing photochemical water purification products.

Since 2006, the Cleantech Open has offered a venue for competition among green tech start-up companies looking for funding. Winning alumni of the contest include Cool Earth Solar, Green Volts, and Micromidas.

This year's winner, Puralytics, is an Oregon-based start-up that uses natural sunlight or LED lighting as the catalysts to remove pathogens, petrochemicals, and pharmaceuticals from waste water. Its processes under development have applications for both industrial manufacturing facilities and small rural communities. Puralytics will receive $250,000 in a combination of cash and services from sponsor companies.

Runners up included EarthClean and OnChip Power.

Minnesota-based Earth Clean came up with what many would call a practical clean idea for fighting fires. The start-up has developed a fire suppressant called TetraKO. The water additive gel, which can be used in existing fire hoses for building fires or aerial spray systems for forest fires, is non-toxic to plants and wildlife, and completely biodegradable. When mixed with water, TetraKO creates a sticky substance that adheres to vertical surfaces as well as ceilings, which the company says improves fire suppression and reduces chances for rekindling. Upon prolonged exposure to heat, the substance evaporates as steam leaving no residue.

The other runner-up, which was also the Northeast Regional winner, is OnChip Power, a start-up based in Massachusetts that grew out of MIT. It makes miniature VHF power supply components. The company says its OnChip Power is "10x smaller size, 3x longer life, 20x faster response, 1/2 the component count."

"You know the brick on your laptop power cord? We make that thing the size of a quarter," OnChip Power Founder and CEO Vanessa Green said in a video interview backstage during the Cleantech Open awards ceremony in San Francisco on November 17.

The "People's Choice" winner, which receives $100,000 in services from sponsor companies to bring their idea to market, went to Silicon Solar Solutions. The Arkansas-based start-up is developing a process to reduce the amount of silicon needed to manufacture solar cells without sacrificing their efficiency.