NASA awards UbiQD contract to develop greenhouse films for space missions
(13 August 2018 - UbiQD) UbiQD, a New Mexico-based nanotechnology development company, announced today that it has been awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) Phase I contract by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The contract will provide funding for UbiQD's collaborative research and development with the University of Arizona to explore using quantum dots (QDs) to tailor the spectrum of sunlight for optimized crop growth for in-space and planetary exploration missions.
Growing Opportunities is hosting UbiQD’s first commercial greenhouse pilot project in Alcalde, New Mexico. This false color photo shows the Dutch-style greenhouse where UbiGro Film is boosting the weight yield of tomatoes. (courtesy: UbiQD)
"We are excited to be working with UbiQD to explore this innovative approach in managing wavelengths of light from light source to plant leaf within a food plant production application," said Dr. Gene Giacomelli, professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering Department and the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona. "This technology has the potential to improve the PAR light source efficiency, thereby becoming a game-changer for indoor crop production."
UbiQD has quietly been developing its QD agriculture films after receiving funding from Breakout Labs in 2017 to explore the concept. The company is now aiming to launch a retrofit version of its film product in late 2018 under the UbiGro brand. The UbiGro Film is designed to promote vegetable production and accelerate plant growth.
"With NASA's support we will work with the University of Arizona's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center in their College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to evaluate our quantum dot agriculture films for improved lettuce production," said Dr. Matt Bergren, Chief of Product at UbiQD and Principal Investigator for the project. "We have already been testing the films, in both research and commercial greenhouses in the U.S., and we've seen yield improvements for tomatoes on the order of 20-30 percent."
UbiQD is a nanotechnology company based in Los Alamos, New Mexico that manufactures high-performance cadmium-free quantum dots and composite materials. The company uniquely focuses on applications that utilize its nanomaterials to manipulate sunlight, enabling solar windows and spectrum-controlled greenhouses. Spun out of technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington, and Western Washington University, UbiQD envisions a future where quantum dots are ubiquitous in a wide spectrum of applications.
About University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center
The Mission of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (UA-CEAC) is to develop economically, environmentally and socially sustainable agricultural systems that will provide food of high quality for helping to feed the world. Engineers and scientists focus on CEA production agricultural practices within greenhouse, growth rooms and vertical farms to provide the desired aerial environment and the necessary root zone environment using hydroponic production techniques. Resource use efficiency of water, energy and plant nutrients are improved within automated systems.
About NASA STTR Program
The NASA STTR program is sponsored by its Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) and managed at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.