Arizona State University doctoral grads Matthew Aguayo, left, and Aashay Arora are hoping to win a fall 2019 Arizona Innovation Challenge award so they can bring their energy-efficient building coating, EnKoat, to the market. Aguayo is from the Casa Grande area.

CASA GRANDE — An Arizona State University graduate from Casa Grande and his business partner are semifinalists in the fall 2019 Arizona Innovation Challenge.

Matthew Aguayo and Aashay Arora are hoping that the energy-efficient architectural coating, EnKoat, they created as doctoral students at ASU will help them win one of the 10 Arizona Innovation Challenge awards given out by the Arizona Commerce Authority this fall.

The award includes $150,000 and one of 10 seats in the ACA’s Venture Ready Accelerator program.

The accelerator connects start-up businesses with mentors who can help them improve their business plan, improve their marketing and find investors. Aguayo and Arora are competing against 29 other start-up businesses.

EnKoat is a material that can absorb and release heat, reducing the amount of energy needed to heat or cool a building or even a room, Arora said. The duo came up with the material while they were engineering doctoral students at ASU.

At the time, they were working with Narayanan Neithalath, a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to create a concrete pavement that would resist cracking because of heat, Arora said.

While working on the project, Arora and Aguayo wondered if the same material could be applied to homes and commercial businesses to reduce the need for energy to heat or cool buildings.

“We wanted to take our research to market,” Arora said. “There’s a lot of good research that gets lost in graduate papers. We knew this could be used in commercial and residential construction.”

Aguayo and Arora were able to incorporate the material into indoor and outdoor paint, stucco and concrete, eliminating the need for special equipment to apply EnKoat and making it easier for construction workers or the average homeowner to apply the product, he said.

Arora and Aguayo have tested EnKoat at two mini houses they built on Aguayo’s parents’ 7-acre property near Eleven Mile Corner. They’re also testing it on the roof of the Agribusiness Center at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

Aguayo and Arora estimate that EnKoat can save a building owner between 20 and 40% on heating and cooling costs.

The two have found that in order to get the maximum benefit from EnKoat, a building or a room needs to be coated on all surfaces: indoor and outdoor walls, ceilings, roofs and floors. The temperature inside the room or building can be regulated by increasing or decreasing the amount of coating that is used, Arora said.

Now that most of the product testing is done, Arora and Aguayo are starting to develop a business plan to bring EnKoat to the marketplace. They’ve been reaching out and talking to developers and contractors about the product. They’re hoping that if they win one of the Innovation Challenge awards, they’ll be able to use the mentoring, connections and funds to start to manufacture EnKoat on a larger scale and bring it to the general market.

The winners of the Innovation Challenge will be announced before the end of the year.