In the “American Idol” of clean-tech, a Wisconsin nanotech firm won a Midwest competition last week and qualified for the finals in California.

Xolve, formerly Graphene Solutions, was one of three finalists in the North Central Clean Tech Open last week in Minneapolis.

“It’s good exposure for us and we’re excited to be a part of it,” said John Biondi, who joined the small nanotech firm this summer as president and chief executive. The company is in the midst of a fund-raising effort, courting venture capital and angel investors in a $1.5 million convertible debt financing round.

Graphene Solutions grew out of work by James Hamilton, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and Philip Streich, a young student at the time. They discovered a means to dissolve graphene – a carbon-based building material – and make single-particle carbon nanotubes that don’t clump together in bundles.

“Our technology allows us to make nanoparticles soluble for the first time, and it’s that solubility that makes them useful,” Biondi said. Potential applications range from making materials used in airplanes and cars lighter to coatings for solar power cells.

Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story here.