Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Oil field photo licensed from

Oil field photo licensed from

A new startup, Atom Mines won first place in the Texas Energy pitch competition at the University of Texas at Austin during UT Energy Week.

The Austin-based startup, founded this year, is creating a more efficient type of light bulb that uses less energy and lasts longer.

“Atom Mines will produce tailored mercury isotopic mixtures to replace the natural mercury mixtures used in billions of linear fluorescent bulbs, offering 22 percent efficiency gains,” according to Kirk Dorius, the company’s CEO. “Tens of cents in tailored isotopics will save tens of dollars in electricity per bulb.”

Light bulbs are just the first application Atom Mines is tackling, Dorius said. It plans to produce separated stable istopes for all kinds of industrial applications.

“The same tailored isotopics can be used in UV lamps to address chlorine resistant pathogens in water supplies,” he wrote, via email. “Other separated stable isotopes have applications in advanced nuclear reactor designs.”

Mark G. Raizen Ph.D., professor of physics at UT Austin, is the company’s chief technology officer. He is the co-inventor of MAGIS isotope separation and optimized isotopics for fluorescent and UV lighting. Its CEO Dorius is an intellectual property attorney, mechanical engineer and entrepreneur in nuclear medicine and energy.

The competition showcases companies run by students, faculty and others with ideas focused on the energy industry, said Darcia Datshkovsky Sáenz, a graduate student in public affairs and energy. She is the president of the Longhorn Energy Club, which puts on the competition.

This is the second year for the Texas Energy pitch competition. Last year, they gave away $100,000 in prizes. This year, because of the big dip in oil prices, the competition gave $8,000 to the first place winner and $4,500 to the second place winner. Both winners came from UT.

“The competition shows that what starts here really changes the world,” Datchkovsky Sáenz said, quoting the university’s motto.

Texas Guadalupe earned second place.

Texas Guadaloop is made up of a team of 40 engineers, computer scientists and business students at the UT Austin who are building the Hyperloop transportation pod. SpaceX selected their team to design and build a working model of its Hyperloop transportation pod. They are currently raising funds and building their prototype. They are scheduled to showcase their final pod to Elon Musk this summer.

In all, 15 companies competed in the Texas Energy Pitch. They gave 20 minute pitches throughout the day last Thursday before a panel of judges. The winners were announced during a happy hour event that evening.

The other companies included:

AeroClay – A division of Compadre in Austin, AeroClay takes clay and polymers and makes it into a “lightweight material that can be used as a structural material, coating or liner.” It can be used as insulation material or to clean up hazardous waste, according to the company.

EBIK – A startup based at the University of Texas at Austin that lets students rent electronic bicycles to get around campus. The idea is fashioned after the business model of Car2Go.

ExpertKnowledge – This Houston-based company, formerly known as In-Acuity, creates training courses for employees in the oil and gas industry based on knowledge from current and past employees.

GNOSYS – A Houston-based Software as a Service startup offers software tools for creating electronic procedures in the oil and gas industry via augmented reality.

Infinitoom – A San Antonio-based startup that specializes in licensing new technology, partnering and consulting in the electricity industry.

Nexushaus – A group of UT students partnered with Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany to create an energy efficient 784 square foot solar house. They placed fourth in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in 2015. The house also collects most of its own water and has a vegetable and fish system that relies on closed-loop aquaponics.

Onboard Dynamics – This startup, based in Bend, Oregon, is “integrating natural gas compressor technology into automotive engines, reducing the cost of CNG compression,” according to the company.

Recollect Energy – A startup founded out of the University of Houston manufactures thermoelectric generators that convert heat into electricity for commercial trucks on the road today.

Seismos – Based in Austin, with offices in Houston, this startup improves real-time fluid flow monitoring for enhanced oil recovery, according to the company.

Simplify Solar – the company created a platform to assess the costs of buying and installing solar panels for homes.

VERT Solar Finance -a Houston-based investment company with experience in structured finance, private equity and renewable energy development.

Water Lens – this Houston-based startup does real time testing of water and other fluids at an oil well site.

Xyber Technologies -this Austin-based startup has created energy efficient cooling systems for servers in data centers. Its technology reduces energy consumption by up to 30 percent and cooling requirements by up to 40 percent per server.

Correction: an earlier version of this article did not correctly explain the light bulb process Atom Mines plans to use.