Alumni Duo to Develop Entrepreneurial Idea as Innovation Crossroads Fellows

Tuesday, August 04, 2020
Photos of Thomas Foulkes and Garrett Meyer.

Alumni Thomas Foulkes and Garrett Meyer are developing a nanostructured coating for two-phase electronics cooling with the assistance of world-class scientists and equipment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

A friendship forged as first-year students on campus has sprouted into a unique engineering and entrepreneurial venture for alumni Thomas Foulkes and Garrett Meyer that will bring innovative technology from the laboratory to the marketplace.

The duo is spending the next two years developing a nanostructured coating for two-phase electronics cooling through the Innovation Crossroads fellowship program at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) near Knoxville, Tennessee.

Foulkes, a 2015 electrical engineering alumnus, investigated advanced cooling techniques and electro-thermal co-design to increase the power density of converters for electric vehicles while earning a doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Meanwhile, Meyer, a 2014 mechanical engineering and mathematics graduate, spent six years at Black & Veatch, directing thermodynamic performance tests for 5 megawatt to 1.3 gigawatt thermal power and process facilities.

With entrepreneurial training from the VentureWell E-Team accelerator program in 2018, Foulkes identified a commercial opportunity in the cooling of high-performance computing. He knew Meyer’s industry knowledge would bring a macro-perspective to this heat transfer challenge to complement Foulkes’ nano-scale vantage point. They co-founded AquaQuant Laboratories (AQL) last fall to facilitate the sustainable growth of the digital economy with scalable, nanostructured coatings.

Both originally met in Baur-Sames-Bogart residence hall shortly after arriving as first-year students at Rose-Hulman. Finding shared interests, a close friendship developed and they became roommates throughout their undergraduate years on campus.

“We are excited to join the great Rose-Hulman network of engineer-entrepreneurs as we tackle the sustainability and performance of computation,” stated the alumni in a joint statement about the upcoming venture.

Innovation Crossroads, a laboratory-embedded entrepreneurship program at the Oak Ridge Laboratory, offers a variety of benefits to assist AQL in commercializing its project. These include non-dilutive funding over two years to further develop their technology while retaining their intellectual property after on-site collaboration with world-class scientists. The company also will engage with a fertile ecosystem of mentors, advisors, and strategic partners as it works on materials fabrication and characterization to grow its technology and business.

“The fourth cohort at Innovation Crossroads will be developing a wide range of promising energy and manufacturing technologies, and we look forward to seeing their concepts advance over the next two years,” stated Valri Lightner, deputy director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, in a laboratory news release.