Ph.D. student Lingchen Kong continues to make amazing progress on his start-up company, Ellexco. He won first place at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) local competition in D.C. on January 26. GSEA is a premier global competition for students who own and operate a business while attending college or university.
“I am really excited to win first place at the DC competition. I didn’t expect I could win, but I entered because I thought it was a really good chance to show our technology and startup,” Kong said. “I also really appreciated all of the judges’ efforts. They provided coaching sessions before the competition and gave really useful feedback after the presentation as well.”
In order to reach the GSEA Global Finals, nominees must first compete against their peers from around the world in a series of local and national competitions. As the winner of the D.C. competition, Kong is able to move on to the U.S. national competition. Kong said he is excited about this next step as he is happy to have the opportunity to meet more outstanding entrepreneurs from around the states.
Kong and Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Xitong Liu, founded Ellexco in 2021. Ellexco’s goal is to make lithium extraction more cost-effective and environmentally friendly by providing a chemical-free direct lithium extraction technology from brines, the salty water that is a byproduct of geothermal energy production. To accomplish this goal they designed an integrated electrochemical process which could extract lithium from brines and produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide with only electricity input. Greener mining of lithium will make the lithium battery industry more sustainable.
It is expected that global demand for lithium will increase 500% by 2050 and right now over 90% of the lithium supply in the U.S. is imported. Mining lithium domestically from unconventional aqueous sources, such as geothermal brine, will lower the raw lithium price. The Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting this effort by conducting the Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize competition. Team Ellexco has previously won two different phases of this competition and are now in its third phase. The winners will be announced in the fall of 2023.
In addition to the DOE competition, Kong won the GW Pitch George Competition with Ellexco in December 2022 and competed in the 2023 New Venture Competition (NVC). Regarding his participation in multiple competitions, Kong said, these competitions will help him learn from other startups and gain advice and suggestions from the judges.
Additionally, as Ellexco is a brand new startup, Kong said it first needs attention for company promotion and more presentations may bring more attention from industry or investors. Ellexco received a big boost from NVC as Kong and Liu won both the Business Goods and Services Track and the CirrusLabs Prize for Best Tech Venture, each $10,000 awards.
We at GW Engineering wish Kong continued success in his endeavors with Ellexco!