Past Recipients

Leah Ellis

Postdoctoral Fellow, Chiang Group
“An Electrochemical Reactor for Decarbonating the Cement and Lime Industries”


With the support of Kavanaugh Translational Fellowship funds, Leah Ellis has been developing a technology that uses intermittent renewable electricity to decarbonize cement-making. Currently, cement is the most widely used man-made material and one of the most polluting too. Each kilogram of cement produces at ~1 kilogram of CO2, resulting in 8% of global CO2 emissions. To put this in context, if cement were a country, it would be the 3rd biggest CO2 emitter after China and the US.  More than 75% of CO2 emissions from cement-making are from calcining limestone at ~900°C.  Leah worked with Yet Ming Chiang to develop a room-temperature, aqueous, electrochemical method for converting limestone into cement precursor that does not require any fossil fuel or produce any combustion emissions.

During her fellowship period, Leah produced a prototype reactor to achieve proof-of-concept, and traveled to industry conferences to share her work and meet with potential partners.  In 2020, Leah was awarded the Activate Fellowship to launch her company, Sublime Systems.

“The Kavanaugh fellowship provided me with funding to perform experiments that were critical for demonstrating the value proposition and commercialization potential of my technology. The monthly meetings with the fellowship committee, which included seasoned entrepreneurs Bart Kavanaugh and Chris Schuh, helped me navigate the transition from PhD to CEO and how to approach such things as cap tables, negotiations, and IP licensing.”