Firm with UF ties wins Cade Prize


Chris Morton, representing NanoPhotonica, walks off the stage after being selected by the judges as the winner of the 4th Annual Cade Museum Prize Night during the ceremony at the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall in Gainesville on Thursday.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 10:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 10:47 p.m.

NanoPhotonica is already working with four of the five largest manufacturers of display screens for electronic devices in the world.

On Thursday night, the company with offices in Orlando and in the University of Florida Innovation Hub in Gainesville won the fourth annual Cade Museum Prize and the $50,000 cash prize courtesy of the Community Foundation of North Central Florida.

In a pitch to about 350 people in a sold-out event at the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall, CEO Chris Morton described the "secret sauce" the company is producing for manufacturers to make display screens brighter and less expensive to produce.

With technology licensed from materials science research at the University of Florida, the company makes very thin displays from nanomaterials that convert electricity to light and can produce an image 10 times brighter than current screen technology.

"Look at your smartphone," Morton said. "You can't see it in daylight. You can't see it at an angle. It's fuzzy."

In addition to solving those issues, Morton said the nano-displays cost 60 to 70 percent less to produce than current methods because they can be produced by an inkjet printer at room temperature instead of having to use machines that cost millions of dollars. That will make electronic devices affordable to more people around the world.

In a prior interview, Morton told The Sun that the prize money would help with the final development of the materials to prepare them for mass production.

The company will also receive $10,000 in free legal services from the firm Edwards Wildman. The three runners-up will each receive $2,500 in legal services.

From 81 applicants, different panels of judges selected a Sweet 16 and a Final Four that competed Thursday night.

Prize director Richard Miles said applicants were judged on how innovative their ideas are, the potential impact of their creations and how close they are to market.

For the first time this year, the audience voted for a People's Choice Award following the company pitches, which went to Gainesville company Green Liquid and Gas Technologies.

The company has been a Sweet 16 finalist all four years and cracked the Final Four this year.

Green Liquid makes a machine called a pyrolyzer that cooks waste materials at extremely high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to produce fuel. It plans to build a model that converts waste plastic into crude oil.

CEO Norbert Richter said that 62 billion pounds of plastic go in landfills every year, equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil worth $19 billion at current market rates. The pyrolyzer can produce a barrel of oil for $10, less than it costs to produce oil from a platform off the Louisiana coast, Richter said.

The other finalists were Didrick Medical, a Naples company that makes finger prosthetics, and Gainesville's Partender, which makes mobile software to help bars take inventory.

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