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A team that wants to make batteries more environmentally friendly won $15,000 at a competition for environmental innovation at the University of Washington.

MOtiF Materials invented a way to making batteries degrade less quickly over time. “If you can fix batteries, it has an impact on so many other clean energy technologies,” said Elizabeth Rasmussen, who founded MOtiF.

Rasmussen, a doctoral student of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, said the broader aim of the project is to make next-generation materials and manufacture them in a way that is scalable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. She was drawn to the project as a way to use her mechanical engineering knowledge to create a process that helps the environment. “It’s something that everyone can get behind,” Rasmussen said.

Specifically, she wants to find ways to synthesize a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) at scale without damaging the planet. A recent Scientific American article likened MOFs to plastics, saying they “are poised to be the defining material of the 21st century.”

Rasmussen is securing intellectual property for the technology and working on a paper manuscript based on her work. She’s received grant funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and financial support through a fellowship with the Clean Energy Institute. MOtiF does not have a website yet.

The team also includes graduate students of mechanical engineering Stuart Moore and Courtney Otani, as well as undergraduate student Molly Foley.

The winners for the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge were selected by more than 150 entrepreneurs, investors and environmental advocates.

$10,000 2nd Place Prize: Atomo Coffee

(Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship)

What’s coffee without the beans? For Atomo Coffee, it’s a better cup o’ joe.

The startup, which claims to have “hacked the coffee bean,” is rethinking how coffee is made from molecular level using naturally sustainable ingredients. Atomo launched a Kickstarter project in February and has raised more than $25,000 so far.

Andy Kleitsch and Jarret Stopforth are the co-founders of Atomo. Kleitsch is a tech vet who once worked at Amazon and currently leads entrepreneur workshops at the University of Washington. The second-place prize was sponsored by Herbert B. Jones Foundation.

$5,000 3rd Place Prize: Chibage Chip

(Matt Hagen Photo / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship)

Biochemistry doctoral student Tamuka Chidyausiku invented a device called the Chibage Chip to help farmers detect when plants are thirsty. Chidyausiku is from Zimbabwe and wants farmers in developing nations to benefit from the device.

In addition to winning the $5,000 third-place prize, which was sponsored by the Port of Seattle, Chibage Chip also won the $5,000 community impact prize.

AeroSpec, which developed a way to monitor air pollution on a large scale, and NanoPrint, which is creating a zero-waste manufacturing process, both won $1,000 for the “Judges Also Really Liked” awards.

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