RudenkoPULLMAN, WA — TriboTeX, a company started by a Washington State University materials science graduate student, is one of about 150 semi-finalists around the U.S. in a national and prestigious clean technology business competition.
Clean Tech Open, the nonprofit organization that runs the competition, works to enable innovation in the clean tech industry, according to their Web site. Their annual business plan competition is meant to provide training and support to fledgling entrepreneurs. A total of 17 companies from throughout the Northwest were named as this year’s semi-finalists.
As a graduate student, Pavlo Rudenko has worked to develop a business based on his research on lubricants. He is working to use nanotechnology to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly additives for lubricants. He started TriboTeX earlier this year to further develop and begin producing his bio-based lubricant that can reduce friction and increase machinery efficiency.
The work is important because of the huge amount of energy lost to friction, he says. In cars, for instance, one third of an engine’s mechanical energy is lost. If that energy could be recovered, it would provide more energy than all of the oil that the U.S. currently imports.  If lubrication can be improved, then, it will dramatically reduce fuel consumption and costs, he says.
Originally from the Ukraine, Rudenko’s came to the U.S. to attend graduate school. Last year, he was one of only 80 students nationwide selected to participate in Singularity University, a privately funded university that offers a 10-week summer program for graduate students. The program brings together specialists in academia, business and government with the aim of harnessing technology to address critical global challenges. He was also involved in WSU’sInvention to Venture workshop, which was held earlier this year in Pullman.  The workshop, sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, aims to help participants learn how to turn an idea into a new business.
This summer, Rudenko is pursuing an internship at Argonne National Laboratory, where he is continuing research and work with a well-known group of researchers in tribology, which is the study of friction and lubrication.
As part of the Clean Tech Open competition, the semifinalists, including Rudenko, receive mentoring from leaders in the clean tech industry. He will meet in the Bay Area this week with experts in technology development, scaling, and marketing as well as with clean tech investors and entrepreneurs.
“If you are passionate and hard working, there are plenty of powerful allies to help and learn from,’’ he says.
The winners of the competition will be announced in November.
Rudenko’s company is the second WSU start-up that has been a semi-finalist in the prestigious competition. GoNano Technologies, started by Grant Norton, a faculty member in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and
David McIlroy, a physics professor from the University of Idaho, received the honor two years ago. In 2010, a prominent technology website also named WSU as one of the top 10 universities in the U.S. for clean technology.
“We’re proud to see that another start-up coming out of WSU is gaining recognition through the prestigious Clean Tech Open competition,’’ said Candis Claiborn, Dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture. “This project is another great example of our efforts in the College of Engineering and Architecture, where much of our research is focused on tackling national challenges in energy, the environment, and health through clean technology innovations and entrepreneurship.’’