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2009 News Releases



Nanoengineered Concrete idea wins MIT Elevator Pitch Contest

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On Oct. 29, a panel of venture capitalists and industry specialists selected civil and environmental engineering doctoral student Rouzbeh Shahsavar as winner of the 2009 MIT Elevator Pitch Contest for his idea for a company based on Nanoengineered Concrete.

The contest, which is open to MIT students from across its five schools, neighboring colleges and Boston-area entrepreneurs, allows competing teams 60 seconds to deliver a persuasive elevator pitch to the panel of judges.

“Concrete is the most widely used, manufactured material in the world. Problematically, it contributes to more than 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide,” said Shahsavari in the final round of elevator pitches. “Developing a nanostructured concrete not only has the potential of reducing carbon dioxide emissions but can also be tuned to be much stronger than conventional concrete.

“Compared to other advanced multi-purpose materials, cement and concrete have been left behind and are often treated at the lower end of cutting-edge materials,” he said. “However, there is an urgent worldwide need that motivates me to bring concrete to the forefront of nanoengineered sustainable materials. This will lead to sustainable infrastructure developments on a large scale far beyond North America.”

Nanoengineered Concrete emerged as one of 12 finalists representing six different categories: energy (the winning category), high-tech, life sciences, mobile technology, products and services, and social development. Shahsavari’s idea beat out 354 competitors during the three-day contest. The runner-ups were team Calinix, which provides novel drug screening solutions, and Apex by Hydrangle Systems, a novel biomedical device.

“We were blown away by the quality of the pitches across the board,” said judge Tim Rowe, founder and managing director of the Cambridge Innovation Center and a venture partner at New Atlantic Ventures. “This is an extremely creative group and they each made a very compelling case.”

Nanoengineered Concrete won $5,000 in seed money while the runner-ups took home $2,000 each. Last year’s winner of the Elevator Pitch Contest, Waleem Daher, went on to win the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal awarded his start-up, K-Splice, a 2009 Technology Innovation Award. This was the third year the contest has been held.

In related work, Shahsavari was co-author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in September that described for the first time the three-dimensional crystalline structure of cement hydrate – the paste that forms and quickly hardens when cement powder is mixed with water.

Rouzbeh Shahsavari