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jhana porter focused on biobased PVC alternative

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of several articles spotlighting the entrepreneurs participating in the inaugural “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” hosted by the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee Research Park. . The entrepreneurs behind each start-up will pitch their companies during a “Demo Day” event the morning of August 31 in Knoxville. The public is invited. To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Any mentor advising a new entrepreneur will tell that person that one of her or his top priorities is to build a network early on, and it was that network that helped bring jhana porter – she prefers the all lower case spelling – to Knoxville and the new “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.”

The resident of Houston, TX says she was introduced to Gary Rawlings, Technology Consultant to the “Innovation Crossroads” (IC) program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, through the “Bronze Valley Accelerator” that gener8tor operates in Birmingham. She applied for the newest IC cohort but was not successful.

“John (Bruck) reached out, we talked, and I decided to apply for the ‘Spark’ program,” porter said. “I had already done a few accelerators.” They included: (1) “NextLap” where her focus was on products made from tires; (2) the “Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator” ; and (3) Bronze Valley.

Her start-up, founded two years ago, is named frakktal, and it is focused on developing biobased materials built from plant and agricultural  leftovers. More specifically, the emphasis is on a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) replacement for use in the built environment.

How did porter settle on a biobased PVC alternative?

She says that she has always been interested in the environmental stewardship. Porter (pictured here) is also a yoga practitioner, and the initial focus of frakktal resulted from an experience during a yoga class where she smelled a mat nearby that was off gassing, defined as the emission of especially noxious gases from yoga mats.

“I never imagined starting a company to develop a sustainable product,” she told us during a recent interview, adding that “I have developed the IP (intellectual property) but had not focused on a specific market.”

Now that she is part of the inaugural cohort of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator,” porter says her focus is on a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) alternative for the building and construction market, specifically for flooring.

“It will be fully circular,” she says.

Porter was attracted to the region by “the wealth of scientific resources” which she hopes can help her commercialize the idea for which she has a trade secret on the technology.

“We look forward to the journey and, when successful, we’ll contribute to the joy that comes from using sustainable materials,” porter says.

The “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” is operated by the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee Research Park (UTRP). The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, City of Knoxville, Launch Tennessee, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and UT Research Foundation, and is further supported by the Energy Mentor Network, a program managed by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council.

The accelerator is also a partner in the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership, a collaboration of start-up programs across the Greater Midwest Region including Evergreen Climate Innovations and mHUB, both based in Chicago, and Centrepolis Accelerator which is based in Detroit.

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