TEC Alumni Series: An in Depth Look at Anirban Basu

TEC News Stories

10/19/2011 4:50:00 PM

Story Highlights

By:Lyndsey Taylor

Urbana, Ill.-(October 19, 2011)- Since graduation from Illinois in May 2009, Anirban Basu has continued to pursue his love for technology by working for Intel Corporation as a senior device engineer.

Currently living in Portland, Ore., Basu has been working on microchips for hand-held devices such as tablets, GPS and notebooks. Basu's goal is to create future hand-held devices that are more low-powered by working with transistors.

Prior to Intel, Basu created a start-up company while at the University called Spectraboil which intended to manufacture solar jugs that purify water.

Spectraboil uses UV rays to help disinfect water and rid it of E. coli and cryptosporidium, two different kinds of bacteria. “The challenge is to get the UV in an environmentally-friendly way,” he said.

Most man-made UV rays come from light bulbs with mercury, and Basu's idea is to start using micro-sized LEDs instead, making the process much safer.

Basu said “getting disinfected water is a major challenge” in most parts of Africa and Asia, which is where the inspiration for Spectraboil came from. More than 2 billion people in underdeveloped areas don't have access to clean water and more than 16 million people worldwide die each year from poor water conditions, according to Basu. 

While working as a postdoc with Professor John Rogers, Basu came to know about two breakthrough technologies originally developed in Rogers’ group. Rogers’ team developed high efficiency solar cells printed on flexible substrates, and the technology of fabricating micro-sized LEDs for displays and lighting. Basu proposed the idea of converging the two technologies in a modular form while replacing the lighting LEDs with an array of UV micro-LEDs. The integrated solar-cell and UV LEDs can be used on curved surfaces in a conformal way to form water disinfecting module.

He and team member Eric Brueckner, competed in the Idea to Product Competition campus round at Illinois as well as the regional round in St. Louis in 2009 and placed third among 24 teams from 11 schools.

Spectraboil had a patent drafted for free after its selection for the Technology Entrepreneur Center’s (TEC)Patent Clinic. Basu said getting the patent approved after submission could take up to two years. 

Basu said TEC and the University helped him to develop working relationships that have benefited Solar Jug.  

“I have always had an entrepreneurial state of mind. I always wondered as a student how to get involved in starting a new company and what it takes,” he said. “By attending the workshops, lectures and competitions [through TEC], I got a taste of what it's like.”

“Illinois is a great place for finding resourceful peers.”

Due to the challenges of finding government or private funding, Basu has put Spectraboil temporarily on hold, but would like work on venture in the future.

Basu's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to come up with a “neat idea” by understanding what people need and what is not yet out there. “Use your knowledge and awareness to create socially meaningful products. Get in touch with TEC, they will set you up with the initial steps,” he said.

“A common thread for entrepreneurs is that they all faced a point where they thought it would be the end, but didn't give up on their idea,” he said. “Their perseverance defeated the challenges. Don't get baffled by obstacles. There will be disappointments, but it's important to get over it as soon as you can. Stay passionate and pursue it.”

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