WARF Innovation Awards

This year, through the WARF Innovation Awards program, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) began honoring inventors for the year’s most exceptional UW-Madison inventions. Chemistry Professor Bob Hamers, along with colleagues Di Zhu, a graduate student, and Nigel Becknell, a former undergraduate student  (now a graduate student at UC-Berkeley), submitted one of the six inventions selected as finalists for this year’s awards. The invention, “Photocatalytic activation and conversion of N2 and other small molecules,” is a new method of photocatalytically converting nitrogen to ammonia at room temperature using a unique property of diamond to emit electrons when excited with ultraviolet light.

An independent panel selected the six finalists and awarded prizes to two winning inventions from the fiscal year's more than 370 eligible invention disclosures. The panel looked for inventions that provided exciting solutions to important problems and demonstrated great potential for widespread practical use, said Leigh Cagan, WARF chief technology commercialization officer.