2016 MC6 Competition: Georgia Tech-Lorraine Ph.D. candidate, Charles Munson, takes home the top prize

A battery for an everlasting heart, with applications in many other areas, wins top honors.

The finals for the 5th annual MC6 Competition organized by Club Metz Technopôle, in Metz, France, took place on December 1st, with Charles Munson of Georgia Tech-Lorraine winning first place.  The MC6 Competition encourages the spirit of innovation by inviting students from the grandes écoles (the top French universities) throughout the Grand Est region to present their startup idea, competing for a trophy and monetary prizes ranging from 200 to 1,000 Euros.

Out of 14 projects submitted, 6 were selected to move forward into the finals. Georgia Tech-Lorraine has had the distinction of making it into the final 6 for each year of the competition. The 6 finalists are paired with industry mentors and sponsors, who help guide students in taking their projects from concept to product. At the final presentation, each student team has 6 minutes to convince the judges and the audience that their innovative idea is worthy of the top prize.

Charles Muson, a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, working under Professor Abdallah Ougazzaden, took home the top honors for his project, “A battery for an everlasting heart.” (Une batterie pour un coeur éternel).  Over the course of his doctoral studies, Charles developed a betavoltaic battery that is small enough to fit in the next generation of pacemakers, and will power them for over 100 years without needing recharging. This long lifespan is achieved by using Nickel-63 as a source material in conjunction with the highly durable semiconductor material, gallium nitride. Georgia Tech-Lorraine is one of the leading laboratories in III-V nitride semiconductor technologies.

One of the main issues facing pacemaker technology today is that their batteries use lithium ion technology, which has a lifespan of roughly 5 to 10 years. With a battery that has a nearly unlimited lifespan, the need for potentially costly and dangerous surgery can be drastically reduced, improving the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of patients that have pacemakers installed worldwide each year.

Long-life battery technology has immediate applications in other areas where replacing batteries is difficult or cost-prohibitive, such as for sensors to monitor the condition of bridges, in space exploration, and with underground or undersea sensing equipment.

The culmination of 4 years of work, Charles’ innovative battery already has two patents pending. What’s the next step for Charles? Launching a joint U.S./French startup to bring his product to market.