2014 Innovation Fellow

Plamen B. Atanassov was chosen to receive the 2014 STC.UNM Innovation Fellow Award in recognition of his achievements as one of the University of New Mexico’s leading innovators. This special award is presented each year by the STC.UNM (STC) Board of Directors to a university faculty inventor whose body of technologies has made a significant social and economic impact on society and the marketplace. The award will be presented to Atanassov at STC’s 2014 Innovation Awards Dinner on April 3.

The annual event recognizes UNM faculty, staff and students who have received issued patents and registered copyrights/trademarks within the past year. In addition to receiving the Innovation Fellow Award, Atanassov will also receive an Innovation Award for an issued patent.

On behalf of the STC.UNM Board of Directors, STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila said: “Dr. Atanassov is truly an outstanding inventor whose fuel-cell technologies will one day give us affordable, efficient and clean vehicles. He is also an entrepreneurial role model to his many students and colleagues in the School of Engineering because he is so committed to the process of commercializing university technologies, which is having an economic impact on New Mexico right now, with potential for impacting industry on the national and international level.”

School of Engineering Dean Joseph Cecchi added, “Dr. Atanassov’s fuel-cell technologies represent major contributions to the field of energy materials. He is a world leader in the design of non-platinum electrocatalysts and his work on replacement catalysts for platinum in hydrogen fuel cells will make the creation of affordable fuel-cell powered automobiles a reality. He is also a leading example of entrepreneurial activity at SOE where, as a senior faculty member and former Associate Dean of Research, he has demonstrated the value of continuous efforts to bring SOE-invented technologies to market. We are delighted that he is receiving this award.”

Atanassov grew up in Bulgaria and graduated from the University of Sofia in 1987, specializing in chemical physics and theoretical chemistry. He joined the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and became a member of the technical staff of its Central Laboratory of Electrochemical Power Sources (now the Institute for Electrochemistry and Power Systems). He received his Ph.D. from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Physical Chemistry/Electrochemistry. A Professor in the Department of Chemical & Nuclear Engineering, he has been a faculty member at the University of New Mexico for 22 years, with valuable time also spent as an industry scientist. 

Atanassov’s UNM technologies are focused on the development of a non-platinum electrocatalyst for fuel cells, materials and technologies for micro-power sources, enzymatic bio-fuel cells, sensor systems design, and integration of micro-analytical systems. Currently, Atanassov is working with Daihatsu Motor Company in Japan on the development of anion-exchange membrane fuel cells for automotive applications. His research group is involved in several projects funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy through its Fuel Cell Technologies Program. These projects include collaborations with Los Alamos National Laboratory, several universities, and industrial partners such as Ballard Power Systems and Nissan.

Atanassov’s portfolio of cathode catalyst technologies has been licensed by a New Mexico start-up company, Pajarito Powder LLC, with the aim of commercializing non-platinum fuel cell catalysts. Atanassov is also involved in three DOD SBIR/STTR Phase II-funded projects with CFD Research Corporation that further the development of enzymatic fuel cells for defense applications. Two of his graduate students have formed start-up companies in the area of enzymatic biofuel cells: Batterade LLC, and Pucara Engineering and Logistics LLC, both pursuing the civilian applications of the technology. Batterade LLC is working to commercialize paper-based biofuel cells technology that is capable of charging small electronics, such as cellphones, with sugar, and Pucara Engineering and Logistics LLC is working to commercialize a portfolio of innovative biofuel cell technologies.