Abhishek Sastri ’20 built a business on cooling technology for high-performance computers. Now, the UCF mechanical engineering alumnus plans to take the business one step further by developing cooling technology for data centers around the world.
The coolant is unlike anything created on Earth. It’s created in microgravity, and has already received recognition from Blue Origin.
Sastri’s company, Fluix, won the Innovation Award at the inaugural Reef Starter Innovation Challenge, which encourages startups to pitch innovative ideas that could be developed in outer space for the benefit of lives on Earth. The challenge is sponsored by Reef Starter, the innovation engine of Orbital Reef, a Blue Origin-backed space station that will be built in low-Earth orbit and eventually used as a business park.
Out of hundreds of applicants, Fluix was one of 20 startups to be selected for the final round of the challenge, and one of four to win top awards. As an awardee, Sastri received $25,000 and a customized workshop with industry experts.
Sastri has already had the chance to meet with several prominent partners.
“Winning this challenge has helped us build relationships with Blue Origin, our launch partner; Sierra Space, our implementation partner for microgravity experiments; and AWS, the biggest potential data center customer on Earth, where our microgravity-developed coolants can be deployed,” Sastri says. “We have met with them, and they are helping us build a strategy to fly our experiments into space and to implement our solutions into existing data centers.”
Sastri says his focus has shifted to data centers because of the energy they consume. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers can consume 10 to 50 times the amount of energy per floor space of a commercial office building. Overall, they account for 2% of the total energy use in the United States.
The secret to cooling these energy eaters lies in space. The harsh, non-gravity environment actually makes the boiling process for the coolants easier on Earth. In turn, the coolant system can rely on fewer moving parts and reduce energy consumption.
This novel idea not only garnered the support of Blue Origin — it also captured the attention of venture capitalists at the TechCrunch Sessions: Space pitch competition. Fluix competed against two other startups and Sastri’s pitch for the microgravity coolant won. As a result, he’ll have the chance to pitch again, but this time it will be as a member of the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield 200, a group of top startup companies that will be featured at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2023 conference this October.
But this isn’t just a lucky streak for Sastri and his company. Fluix was selected for the Blackstone LaunchPad Summer Startup Fellowship in 2020, which propelled its participation in the 2022 TechStars Industries of the Future accelerator. Sastri also won first place at the inaugural UCF Technology Ventures Symposium in 2021, which included a $10,000 cash prize.
Sastri says the next steps for his energy-saving idea are to find investors, grow his sales and engineering teams, and conduct data center pilot tests.
“This will give us the traction and funding to launch our experiments into space,” Sastri says. “With the existing relationships through the Blue Origin Reef Starter Challenge, we now have a streamlined and expedited path to experiment and bring forth new innovations and secrets unlocked in space.”