Available Innovations (A-Z)

The following innovations have patents pending or patents issued and are available for commercialization. The university or its designee has the sole authority to negotiate use rights via licenses with third parties for NIU owned IP. Use rights may include research, further development, making, selling etc.

Inventor(s): Donald Zinger, Anima Bose, Zhihong Yu

Abstract
The invention provides an energy management system that provides power efficiency in electric hybrid vehicles. The system provides a method of controlling power flow in a vehicle, including the steps of determining the amount of energy storage required for each power source device and controlling the power flow delivery between the source devices to the vehicle. This systematic method of establishing component values and determining power distribution better utilizes the energy sources in fuel cell electric vehicles by taking advantage of the unique charging/discharging properties of each source to maximize individual component capacities. The control system utilizes algorithms for determining the amount of energy storage required for each of the devices, and for determining controlling power flow delivery between the devices. When the size of the energy storage systems is decided, a new method of controlling the power flow is proposed based upon optimal control techniques.

Potential commercial use and users:
Plug-in and non plug-in electrical power delivery hybrid devices that utilize standard battery, capacitors, and fuel cells for golf carts, automobiles, motorbikes, snowmobiles, motorboats, and jet skis for example.

Avantages:
This invention controls power management for any fuel cell/battery, battery/super-capacitor, or fuel cell/battery/super-capacitor hybrid electric vehicle. It solves the problem of distributing the power requirement among all contributing energy storage systems. The mathematical algorithms control and distribute adequate power from the available sources depending on the energy demands. Such a controlling process finds a power balance amongst components, so that not only operating costs are minimized, but also all energy storage systems maintain their individual optimal working capacities. Using this energy management invention, the battery can re-energize during the operational cycle if a user occasionally forgets to recharge the battery through plug-in.

Status: Patent No. 8,080,971

 

Inventor(s): C.T. Lin

Abstract 
This additive package for in-situ phosphatizing paint provides independent, but simultaneous reactions to metal surfaces and to polymer paint film. The in-situ phosphate layer forms covalent bonds with paint films providing strong coating adhesion, thus offering excellent corrosion protection. 

Potential commercial uses and users: 
Green and environmentally friendly and chrome-free metal finishing for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), fastener, and aerospace industries. 

Advantages: 
The combination of the phosphate, primer and topcoat applications into a single-step process provides superior surface protection while eliminating the expensive and inefficient phosphatizing line. The unicoat phosphate/paint system is environmentally friendly since it eliminates the toxic sludge produced during the traditional multi-step coating process. Use in solvent-based paints allows for reduction of volatile organic compounds in the formulation. 

Status: Patent No. 5,322,870

 

Inventor(s)Elizabeth Gaillard, James Dillon

Abstract
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of visual impairment in older adults. Macular degeneration can make it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life. The invention herein provides for a method of detecting and diagnosing symptoms of immune-mediated processes during aging and AMD by detecting the biomarkers 3-nitrotyrosine and nitro-A2E within human Bruch's membrane. The finding of these biomarkers provides the first clear demonstration of non-enzymatic nitration of proteins and age-related deposits (A2E) within human Bruch's membrane. Either or both biomarkers can be detected using different methods such as a non-invasive fluorescence test or resonance Raman, which is performed with common diagnostic instruments with standard diagnostic techniques. Through the use of these biomarkers and fluorescent patterns, detection of AMD and other diseases such as, but not limited to, cirrhosis, arteriosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease can be made earlier, allowing a patient to seek treatment as soon as possible. These biomarkers enable non-invasive monitoring of the progression of the disease, as well.

Potential commercial use and users:
Ophthalmology, detection and treatment of AMD and other diseases

Advantages:
Diseases are detected non-invasively and diagnosed earlier, and treatment efficacy is determined easily

Related Publications:
Murdaugh, L.S., Wang, Z., Del Priore, L.V., Dillon, J., Gaillard, E.R. (2010). Age-related accumulation of 3-nitrotyrosine and nitro-A2E in human Bruch&'s membrane. Experimental Eye Research. 90 (5), 564-571.(Available for viewing through Science Direct)

Murdaugh, L.S., Dillon, J., Gaillard, E.R. (2009). Modifications to the basement membrane protein laminin using glycolaldehyde and A2E: A model for aging in Bruch’s membrane. Experimental Eye Research. 89 (2), 187-192. (Available for viewing through Science Direct)

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): Alexander Dyshkant, Vishnu Zutshi, Phillip Stone

Abstract
This unique cell configuration significantly improves light collection and registration efficiency through light generated in active media such as a scintillator. Instead of the traditional flat surface, this design involves removing part of the material in the cell volume just in front of the photo detector thereby producing a concave surface. The concave surface in the cell allows direct coupling between the cell and the photo detector without the use of optical glue or grease. The photo detector faces the cell through a volume of air restricted by the concave surface of the cell. The cell functions by reflecting light inside the cell striking at the concave surface, scattering the light and registering the scattered light with a photo detector. The curved cell shape provides a modified volume of active media in front of the photo detector in such a way that the probability of light scattering in all areas in front of the photo detector is significantly higher. Although the maximum achievable yield of light is less than with optical contact, the uniformity of light yield through the area is significantly higher.

Potential commercial use and users:
Applications utilizing radiation which are monitored through the light generated in media, such as solid state scintillation detectors, Cerenkov detectors, or scintillator based calorimeters; radiation monitoring, medical physics, educational products; mass spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Advantages:
The cell can be made of any suitable type of plastic through which light can exit. Multiple cells can be arranged together and, with appropriate concavities, can also be of any size and/or shape. The concave surface is a source of additional light scattering which increases the registration probability independent of the size of the cell used. The concave surface can be minimally concave or maximally concave according to the light collection requirements thereby allowing for a uniform response across the entire area of the cell. The flat cell methods currently in use entrap a majority of the generated light inside of the cell due to full internal reflection. The large concave surface of this technology, however scatters the entrapped light and changes the light’s direction, and in doing so releases additional light. The invention also simplifies coupling of an active media to a photo detector because expensive light guides or optical fibers are not needed to match the small active area of a photo detector to a larger crystal or scintillator thereby saving in the cost of optical fiber and polishing.

Related Publications:
Blazey, G., Chakraborty, D., Dyshkant, A., Francis, K., Hedin, D., Hill, J., Lima, G., Powell, J., Salcido, P., Zutshi, V., Demarteau, M., Rubinov, P., Pohlman, N.  (2009). Directly coupled tiles as elements of a scintillator calorimter with MPPC readout. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment. 605, 277-281.
(Available for viewing through Science Direct)

Status: Patent No. 8,085,398

 


Alexander Dyshkant

Alexander Dyshkant

Department of Physics

Vishnu Zutshi

Vishnu Zutshi

Department of Physics

Inventor(s): C.T. Lin

Abstract
The present invention provides an environmentally friendly conductive sol-gel emulsion for surface treatment of low-conductivity objects. The emulsion renders the object amenable to powder coating or other treatments that require the surface of an object to be conductive. The sol-gel creates a transparent and high abrasion resistant silicate film on a relative soft substrate (wood or plastics) via hydrolysis and polycondensation reaction.

Potential commercial uses and users: 
Powder coating industry – on non-conductive substrates such as wood (MDF) and plastics.

Advantages: 
The emulsion of the present invention is based on a “green chemistry” approach to formulate an environmentally friendly, aqueous (solvent-free) conductive sol-gel emulsion for surface treatment of low-conductivity surfaces. The film created by the conductive emulsion adheres extremely well to the surface of the object and provides the following beneficial characteristics: good wetting of the substrate, creates a uniformly conductive surface for evenly attracting powder particles and a smooth and hard film highly resistant to scratches.

Status: Patent No. 7,015,280
Patent No. 7,534,831
Patent No. 7,749,607

 

Inventor(s): Timothy Hagen, Zhen Zhang, Zachary Lazowski, Michael Clare, Darren Begley

The fight against malaria, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases is growing more difficult due to the emergence of drug resistant forms of these diseases. Recent studies have shown that bacterial and parasitic organisms, like those involved in malaria and tuberculosis, use a methylerythritol isoprenoid (MEP) biosynthetic pathway to produce isoprenoids.  Isoprenoids found in living organisms are the basic building blocks of many essential substances and range in function from pigmentation, fragrances, vitamin production and precursors of sex hormones. Humans do not use the MEP pathway process; therefore any foreign pathogen in the human body that uses the MEP pathway can be targeted by recognizing enzymes (specifically IspF) associated with MEP. 

This invention is a series of synthetic compounds designed to inhibit the enzyme IspF present in the MEP pathway. Compounds from this series will lead to improved drugs and other treatments for infectious diseases such as malaria and a range of bacterial infections

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor: Tao Xu

Electrochromism is the phenomenon displayed by some materials of reversibly changing color when a burst of electrical charge is applied.  Electrochromic (EC) devices have been attracting widely-spread attention as they can be used as smart windows and electronic displays. In particular, recent research and development progress in organic and polymer electrochromic materials exhibiting different voltage-dependent colors makes EC devices a strong candidate for displays found on cellphones, eReaders, and the like.

Current methods of electrochromic display technology often suffer from limited charge diffusion due to the thickness of the docking layer, a porous layer to which the semiconductor material is adhered. The limited diffusion significantly impedes the switching speed of the electrochromic display and breaks down the active electrochromic material, thus deteriorating the lifetime of the device.  This invention replaces the semiconductive docking layer with a conductive layer, dramatically improving the response time and reduces the driving voltage of the EC device.

Status: Patent Pending

 


Tao Xu

Tao Xu

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Inventor(s): Sen-Maw Kuo 

Abstract
The electronic pillow/headrest technology offers active noise control of unwanted noises by microphone detection of such noise, analysis of the unwanted noise, and production of corresponding anti-noise to the unwanted noise via speakers, thereby abating the unwanted noise. The pillow/headrest technology also offers a method of hands-free communication by sending and receiving sound waves in connection with a phone interface. An additional feature includes the recording and monitoring of sleep disorders, by recording noises produced by a sleeper with microphones encased in the pillow.

Potential commercial use and users:
Portable pillow model use by frequent travelers, hospitals, sleep clinics, or at home for the comfort of "snore-annoyed" sleep partners. Fixed headrest use by private and public transportation manufacturers, furniture manufacturers, hospital beds.

Advantages:
This unique pillow/headrest offers many features and possesses much versatility. The technology can either be produced as a custom-sized comfortable pillow or as a permanent fixture in headboards or headrests. The wide variety of features include self contained systems for unwanted noise abatement (including snoring), and capabilities for integration with other devices such as a cell phone for hands-free communication and/or hospital equipment to record and monitor patient's vitals.

Related Publications: (see www.ceet.niu.edu/faculty/kuo for details)
Sen M. Kuo and Dennis R. Morgan, Active Noise Control Systems- Algorithms and DSP Implementations, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, 1996.

Sen M. Kuo and Dennis R. Morgan, "Active Noise Control," Chapter 49 in Springer Handbook of Speech Processing and Speech Communications, Edited by J. Benestry, Y.Huang, and M. Sondhi, pp. 1001-1017, Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2008

Sen M. Kuo, Sreeram R. Chakravarthy, Rakesh Gireddy, and Abhijit Gupta, "Experiment of Active Snore Noise Control Systems," Noise Control Engineering Journal, vol. 56, no. 1, Jan-Feb., 2008, pp. 16-24.

Status: PCT Publication No. WO/2009/073671

 

Inventor(s): Abhijit Gupta, Ryan Riddel, Randeep Sra

Over 11 million Americans suffer from Essential Tremor, Parkinson’s Disease, or other neurological disorders that cause involuntary or uncontrolled movements of the hands or limbs. These diseases prohibit affected people from performing specific tasks requiring dexterity. While the diseases may not lead to death for the patients, patients suffer from not being able to perform simple day-to-day tasks, which can be disturbing and humiliating for the affected patients. The diseases may also prohibit affected patients from meaningful employment. Existing treatment options include medicines and surgical treatments, but these options may present serious side effects, may not work for all affected people, and may not provide therapeutic benefit for a long period of time. Moreover, existing pharmacological and surgical treatments provide relief from some motor symptoms, but do not halt the ultimate progression of the disease.

This invention is a non-invasive, inexpensive, exoskeleton device for patients suffering from Essential Tremor (ET), Parkinson's Disease (PD) or other tremor disease. This device allows normal movement of the hand, wrist and/or arm by stabilizing the tremors using active vibration control principles. The approach prevents the need for medicine or surgical procedures, minimizing side effects from medicine and surgery and requiring less medical supervision. Whereas surgery is often irreversible, a patient can stop using this device at any time. The device is designed for patients irrespective of frequency and amplitude of vibration, and as a result the device will work without the need to test and classify whether the patient's affliction is PD, ET, MS, or something else. Software in the device uses this data to calculate the needed response based on an algorithmic determination. The device would then engage the motors to apply torque and actuate resistance to the tremor enabling normal hand movement.

Status: Patent Pending

 


Abhijit Gupta

Abhijit Gupta

Mechanical Engineering

Inventor(s): Craig Rusch, Britt Mork, Chris Newquist

Abstract
This piece of football equipment is designed for defensive players training against the offensive maneuver known as the cut-block. The equipment contains an upright blocking pillar connected to a rolling cart which is fitted onto a track.  Within the cart lies a triggering system which allows the blocking pillar to be adjusted and released at specified intervals selected by a coach or other player, therefore creating an element of surprise.  As the player practicing on the apparatus pushes the pillar down the track, the blocking pillar will be released at the desired triggering spot, falling quickly to a horizontal position near the player's knees, simulating the cut-block.

Potential commercial use and users:
Football practice and training camps for defensive players

Advantages:
Several methods are used today to practice against the cut-block but none of them contain the accuracy or element of surprise as this apparatus. Since the triggering system of this invention contains multiple interval selection settings, the player cannot anticipate when the blocking pillar will be triggered.

Status: Patent No. 8,266,503

 


 

Inventor(s): Narayan Hosmane, Robert Spielvogel

Abstract
Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) is a potentially powerful form of radiotherapy involving the preferential incorporation of 10B containing compounds into tumor cells, followed by irradiation of the tumor by thermal neutrons. On absorption of a neutron, the B atom undergoes a fission reaction to produce high linear energy transfer (LET) He and Li particles that are confined to a radius comparable to the dimension of a cell. Thus, irradiation will result in the destruction of the tumor cell in which the particles are generated, with little damage to the surrounding tissue. Several requirements must be met in order for this therapy to be effective. (i) A concentration of 25-30 µg B atoms/g of tumor must be achieved; (ii) a tumor: normal tissue (T: N) ratio of the boron delivery agent greater than 1 is necessary; and (iii) the boron drug should be of low toxicity. Among many boron compounds synthesized, the carborane containing amino acids, carbohydrates, nucleic acid bases, nucleosides and nucleotides are considered to be most useful for the preparation of boron drugs. A large number of nucleosides, attached with various boron moieties at different positions of either the base or the sugar, have been synthesized and evaluated biologically for use in BNCT. Nonetheless, all of the previous nucleotide carborane constructs have been joined by hydrolytically sensitive linkages. The rationale for the design and synthesis of boron containing nucleosides is that such compounds may concentrate selectively in rapidly dividing tumor cells, and following their conversion to the corresponding nucleotides, may be trapped within the cell or, ideally, incorporated into nuclear DNA of tumor cells. In the case of BNCT, such a nuclear localization of boron carrier, i.e., boronated nucleoside, would be advantageous since the effect of neutron capture reaction in nucleus is 2-5 times greater than in cytoplasm. Nevertheless, the ideal drug for BNCT should exhibit stability under physiological conditions and the construction of a species involving direct P-C(cage)-nucleotide linkages is therefore warranted.

Potential commercial use and users:
The incorporation of this compound in the drug would provide double the concentration of boron that is needed for the Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) in the treatment of cancer.

Advantages:
The destruction of the cell is limited to only the cancer cells that preferentially intake the boron drug since the BNC takes place within the cell. The radiation due to alpha particles, produced in the BNCT, has a path length of 8-10 microns, that is the size of a cell.

Status: Patent No. 6,525,224

 

Inventor(s): Tao Xu

Abstract
Nanocrystalline dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) are an appealing device for solar-electric energy conversion for its low cost, simple process, and large-scale production. This invention and method for manufacturing radically alters the nature of the electron transport in traditional TiO2 nanoparticle-based DSSC, from semiconducting to metallic conducting, instead of the traditional method of affecting the electron diffusion length through changing shapes of the semiconducting anode. This strategy erects free-standing metallic pillars on transparent conducting oxide (TCO) glass via electrochemical deposition methods. The pillars or microantennas serve as shortcuts and fast lanes for electron transport from nanoparticles to the TCO anode; in a manner analogous to an antenna that collects radio signals. Besides dye-loading, a key to the higher efficiency is the miroantenna pillar shape when arranged in arrays which decreases electron migration distance.

Potential commercial use and users: Solar cells

Advantages:
Significantly boosts electron harvest in conventional semiconducting nanocrystalline DSSC; doubles the efficiency of other DSSCs while maintaining commercial feasibility

Related Publications:
Enhanced Electron Transport in Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Using Short ZnO Nanotips on A Rough Metal Anode. Yang, Z.; Xu, T.; Yasuo, I.; Welp, U.; Kwok, W. K. (2009) J. Phys. Chem. C, 113: 20521-20526.  (Available for viewing here)

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): Zhili Xiao

Abstract
This hydrogen gas sensor is comprised of a porous substrate having a novel nanowire network of a palladium (Pd) composition deposited thereon. The nanowire networks are created by depositing desired Pd composition on porous substrates with widths of the sections between holes less than 20 nm. When the hydrogen sensor is exposed to an environment, the resistivity of the Pd nanowire changes based on the presence of hydrogen in the environment. The hydrogen sensor can transmit the amount of hydrogen detected to a display, to a computer data processor, or transmitted to a program to perform a certain operation upon the detection of hydrogen.

Potential commercial use and users: 
Safety sensors in hydrogen powered cars; lead (Pb) acid batteries; personnel monitors and other places where hydrogen is present and requires detection

Advantages:
These novel nanowire networks have the advantages of individual nanowires and nanocluster chains but without the associated high fabrication cost. Several types of palladium compositions can be used for the ultra-small nanowires and nanoclusters. The porous substrates can be commercially available filtration membranes (preferable) or they can be manufactured as desired. The porous substrate adds potential for flexibility of sensors if needed. The deposition of the Pd composition can be performed with any thin-film deposition technique known in the art, for example, sputtering, thermal evaporation, or electron-beam evaporation.  The nanowires can be as-prepared or annealed at high temperatures up to 800 degrees Celsius in various gas environments.The ultra-small (<20 nm) thicknesses and widths of the nanowires which form the network reduce the hydrogen diffusion time, resulting in a short response time of the sensor. The hydrogen response time of these networks can be as low as tens of milliseconds. Thin-film deposition techniques can be utilized to deposit the Pd and other Pd compositions for forming the nanowire networks which have the advantage of single nanowires, leading to cost-effective fabrication of the sensor.  The sensor is more reliable because it consists of many conducting paths in parallel.  Thus, this hydrogen sensor is a high speed sensor that is able to work at room temperature, is inexpensive and also can be small size and low power consumption.  

Status: Patent pending

Related Publications:
Hydrogen Gas Sensing with Networks of Ultrasmall Palladium Nanowires Formed on Filtration Membranes, X. Q. Zeng, M. L. Latimer, Z. L. Xiao, S. Panuganti, U. Welp, W. K. Kwok, T. Xu. Nano Letters 2011 11 (1), 262-268.   (Available for viewing here (ACS subscription required))

 

Inventors: Frederico Sciammarella, Joseph Santner, Stefan Kyselica 

The Technology

An estimated 70% of the costs of precision structural ceramic parts are directly due to the current manufacturing methods used to obtain critical part dimensions and features. Currently diamond grinding is used to manufacture parts requiring superior surface quality and final dimensional tolerances of parts per million. Laser assisted machining reduces this cost by increasing material removal rates and eliminating grinding tooling changes and costs. This technology employs multiple laser beams under computer control. Prior approaches to laser assisted machining produced very simple parts having a simple shapes. Employing multiple laser beams under computer control allows the operator to more effectively control the distribution of the thermal energy and thereby provides additional processing freedom to improve the material removal rates.

The Science Behind the Technology

Primary Academic Discipline: Engineering

A multi-beam fiber laser system is integrated with a 5-axis machining center providing an improved method for laser assisted machining of precision parts. The system utilizes a computer to develop interrelated heating and machining plans, from a variety of input data describing the material to be machined, the properties of lasers and pyrometers used for heating the material, computer models of the machining arrangement, workpiece, and final part to be produced.  An iterative process continues until the machining and heating plans result in the heated region of the workpiece being maintained at a desired temperature while also maintaining the cutting tool at desired temperature.

Status: Patent Pending

Easy Machining of Hard Materials®

See the process in action

 

 


Additional information about the inventors and their technology

Dr. Sciammarella's department page

 

Inventor(s): Rathindra Bose, Anima Bose

Abstract
This invention relates to a highly efficient and inexpensive plating technique for coating a metal onto a carbon surface. Generally, the invention provides a method of coating a carbon article with a metal by cyclic voltametrically electrodepositing the metal on the carbon article by using surface electropolymerization, thereby forming a metal coating on the carbon article.

Potential commercial uses and users:
Stationary and vehicular power applications

Advantages:
This invention is useful in designing fuel cell electrodes, especially in that the amount of platinum coating can be manipulated to any desired level. The invention clearly demonstrates the ability of oxygen reduction and hydrogen oxidation by the platinum coated surfaces and that these electrodes are highly stable in strong acidic media. The coating amounts can be controlled between 0.02 mg/cm2 to 0.11 mg/cm2 (geometric area) resulting in the formation of amono-layered nanocatalyst. This ultralow coating results in a highly active catalyst utilizing smaller amounts of platinum than current methods. This technique is highly effective for platinum phosphates. 

Status: Patent No. 7,501,050
CIP Patent Pending

 


 

Inventor(s): Jozef J. Bujarski 

Abstract 
The invention relates to the production of protein 2a that can copy, in vitro, any RNA. The invention provides a method for obtaining a stable RNA polymerase enzyme by expressing protein 2a in cells, pelleting the cells expressing protein 2a, macerating the cells expressing protein 2a to obtain a cell lysate, and filtering the cell lysate through an affinity resin. 

Potential commercial uses and users: 
In molecular biology during lab work. In vivo. 

Advantages: 
This is the first RNA-dependent RNA polymerase that has been stably produced on a large scale for possible commercial purposes with the ability to copy in vitro any RNA. The enzyme copies directly any RNA to a complementary strand and can utilize primers so the initiation site could be custom-addressed. 

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): C.T. Lin 

Abstract 
This invention provides a heat dissipation structure for use in optoelectronic devices. More specifically, this technology is an innovative heat dissipation thick/thin organic-inorganic coating containing active molecularly functionalized vibrational lattice modes designed to act as a molecular cooling fan. The molecular fan is powered directly from the heat generated by the device it is cooling, so it is a powerless heat sink with a spaceless nanoassembly. The "molecular fan" is used to enhance emissivity and radiative cooling of surfaces that are processed in a coated heat-sink or substrate and in tests has lowered the equilibrium temperature of optoelectronic components by 5-12 degrees centigrade.

Potential commercial uses and users: 
A thermal cooling device for CPUs, computers, cell phones, LEDs, refrigerators, engines and aerospace applications. 

Advantages: 
In the powerless and spaceless molecular fan for nano or micro electronic devices, the vibrating part of the molecule effectively releases the heat via radiative/nonradiative processes, greatly reducing or eliminating the need for cooling by convection and mechanical fans. 

Status: Patent No. 7,931,969  
            Divisional Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): Michael Haji-Sheikh 

Abstract 
This method will allow for the construction of high quality capacitors at low process temperatures for thick-film and circuit board manufacturing. Additionally this concept has possible applications in microelectromechanical system ("MEMS") devices manufacturing. Piezoelectric materials with high dielectric constants and combinations of various dielectric constant materials will allow for a nearly infinite variation of permitivity. This concept can also be applied to radio frequency devices such as cell phones. 

Potential commercial uses and users: 
Piezoelectric devices and capacitors for high frequency applications. Possible applications in MEM’s manufacturing. 

Advantages: 
The advantage created by this material and the corresponding polarization method would be to allow elimination of the high temperature >700 C step required in the present methods of producing piezoelectric films. Current technology requires the use of Sol-Gels and/or high temperature fired paste materials. The lower temperatures allow for the piezoelectric material to be applied at the end of the process on devices on which the metal has already been deposited. 

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): Michael Haji-Sheikh, Anima Bose, Leonard Wardzala

Abstract
This novel sensor is capable of detection and discrimination of low-molecular weight volatile compounds, such as organic vapors and therefore can be used for humidity detection. The nano-sensor detects substances by the creation of a disturbance in the capacitance of the nano-sensor by the substance to be sensed. Humidity sensors are utilized in a variety of sensing applications and can be implemented in the context of semiconductor-based sensors utilized in many industrial applications and electronic components such as heating and refrigeration industries, food industries, medical industries, and fuel cell industries. The nano-sensor can be used in instrumentation in environmental systems, fuel cell humidification systems, and planetary soil moisture measurements.  Other potential uses employing detection of other chemical substances exist, such as detection of hydrogen for safety applications and fuel cell fuel mixtures. This sensor creation technique can also be integrated into a semiconductor circuit. The nano-porous material can be put directly on a gate of a MOS device then patterned and etched.

Potential commercial use and users:
Heating and refrigeration, food, medical, and fuel cell industries

Advantages:
This new technology includes extended temperature range, faster response time, and greater response signal. Materials employed are low cost and have ease of use. A single nano-sensor can sense multiple compounds or compositions, wherein the nano-sensor is designed to provide a different output or signal based upon the compound to be detected.

Status: Patent No. 8,132,457

 

Inventor(s): Shengde Zhou

Abstract
This invention provides a method of producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass that includes a method for fermenting bacteria and for making a bacterial derivative including engineering a native homoethanol pathway without addition of foreign genes or promoters. Steps include deleting genes that are competitive with ethanol production pathways and performing transcriptional gene fusion for highly anaerobic expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) operon. The PDH generates additional NADH needed for the homoethanol pathway (pyruvate-to-acetyl-CoA-to-acetaldehyde-to-ethanol). The developed strain ferments both glucose and xylose into ethanol achieving 90 % yields under anaerobic conditions. This approach can be used in strain development for production of biobutanol, biohydrogen, and microbial fuel cells as well, which are also alternative fuel sources.

Potential commercial use and users:
Production of alternative fuel ethanol, chemicals and solvents

Advantages:
This method reduces the reliance on starch-based supply feed for ethanol production, such as corn, which has other competing commercial uses, such as for food and feedstock uses. A cellulosic biomass feed supply for the invention method has large scale availability. The deletion of specific genes and elimination of competing fermentation pathways provided by this method increases the yield of ethanol from the bacteria. The novel pathway technology can be engineered in other suitable bacteria that contain a pathway for ethanol production.

Related Publications:
Zhou, S., A. Iverson, and W. S. Graburn. 2008. Engineering a native homoethanol pathway in Escherichia coli B for ethanol production. Biotechnology Lett. 30(2):335-342.

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): Pamela Macfarlane, Mary Visser, Clifford Mirman, Ragu Athinarayanan 

Abstract 
A team of NIU researchers developed a unique power tester for testing reaction time and muscular power. The ability to exert muscle power is key to the effective performance of many sports related skills requiring the body to change speed and/or direction quickly. The "PowerTool" utilizes the speed of movement in conjunction with the mass being moved to calculate muscle power. The device provides power assessment for both healthy and injured athletes or can be a screening tool measuring the fall risk in patients with low leg power. The "PowerTool" is a portable microprocessor device equipped with photo detectors/receivers as well as a digital display. The device is effective for a wide variety of open and closed chain exercise movements suitable for sport performance enhancement.

Potential commercial uses and users:
Sport performance centers where athletes train to enhance performance requiring speed and strength. Equipment manufacturers who are interested in incorporating measures of power into their resistance equipment. 

Advantages:

The "PowerTool" is a portable, relatively low cost device, offering data on a variety of movements. Current power testing equipment is expensive, has minimal or limited portability and may be limited to one movement.

Related Publications:
Brandenburg, J.P. (2005). The Acute Effects of Prior Dynamic Resistance Exercise Using Different Loads on Subsequent Upper-Body Explosive Performance in Resistance-Traned Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19(2): 427-432.

Visser, M. The assessment of power in college-aged athletes and mid-life women. (completed student thesis)

Status: Patent No. 6,672,157

 


 

Inventor(s): C.T. Lin

Abstract
This invention encompasses methods and reagents for making PT, PZT, and PLZT as well as their extrinsic ions doped powders and thin films. In particular, the invention includes methods for localized laser annealing of PT, PZT, PLZT films to the surface of materials to provide articles useful in electronic devices such as high value capacitors, optical switches, wave guides, and the like. The solution acetate technique is easy, fast, and well-controlled stoichiometry compositions of nano-powders and nano-grain thin films for electronics and catalyst industries.

Potential commercial uses and users:
Electronic and semiconductor catalyst industries, electro-optical devices such as: optical switches, special light modulators, optical disks, monolithic photo microactuators, ferro-electric random access memories, optical neural networks and displays.

Advantages:
The present invention offers advantages in processing techniques for ferroelectric thin films and nano-material as follows: (a) the formulated precursor solutions are stable with no gelation or precipitation for several months; (b) the aqueous acetate process is a non-moisture-sensitive alternative to sol-gel techniques; (c) crystalline perovskites are formed at a relatively low temperature and free of organic impurities. Results indicate that PT, PZT, and PLZT crystallize at 450 degrees C, 500 degrees C and 500 degrees C, respectively. These temperatures are preferable for device fabrication; (d) the acetate/micellar process offers greater control over surfactant concentration and a better metals/organics ratio in the dried film; and (e) the acetate process uses an aqueous solution; the acetate, acetylacetonate, or carbonate salts of various metal ions can easily be added to the solution to prepare doped PT/PZT/PLZT perovskites. 

Status:

 

Inventor(s): Kui Shen

Abstract
Protein phosphatases are regulatory enzymes in the biochemical pathways of living organisms and have been identified as pathogenic factors in diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancers. Protein phosphatases are responsible for the dephosphorylation (phosphate removal) of proteins in a cell. Because phosphorylation is a dynamic process that is difficult to quantify and cannot be predicted by an organism genome, it is important to identify phosphoproteins, their phosphorylation sites and phosphatases responsible for their dephosphorylation.

This invention is an efficient method to identify protein phosphatases that involves the use of unnatural amino acids with novel chemical structures, their preparation, derivation and application as biomarkers, inhibitors and probes of protein phosphatases. As biomarkers, the unnatural amino acid derivatives detect the presence of normal or diseased variants of protein phosphatases. As general inhibitors or probes, the unnatural amino acids can facilitate isolation and visualization of protein phosphatases. As specific inhibitors or probes, the unnatural amino acids are mimics of the natural phosphoamino acids that allow for ready incorporation into peptides or analogs to utilize specific interactions enabled by peptide skeletons.

Potential commercial use and users:
The unnatural amino acids, which mimic natural phosphotyrosine, phosphoserine, or phosphothreonine, can be used as biomarkers for drug target identification and validation at various normal and diseased states, such as, but not limited to, diabetes and cancer. The compounds derived from the unnatural amino acids can be applied to biological samples such as cell lysates or cell cultures. The biomarkers can be used for labeling and subsequent monitoring of protein phosphatase activity.

Advantages:
This invention detects the presence of disease by administering an unnatural amino acid, binding it with a phosphatase, detecting a signal and thereby detecting the disease in warm blooded mammals, including humans. These compounds can be applied to biological samples such as cell lysates or cell cultures, or can be administered alone, as an active ingredient orally, subcutaneously or parenterally. The unnatural amino acids are readily modifiable and can take the general form or specific form of inhibitor/probe. They provide a controlled selectivity (specificity) of inhibitors and probes, ranging from class specificity, to sub-class specificity, to absolute specificity, for protein phosphatases acting upon phosphotyrosine. Currently available structures are not as good mimics of natural phosphoamino acids, limiting their specificity.

Related Publications:
Kui Shen, Lixin Qi, Mohini Ravula, and Krzysztof Klimaszewski. "Synthesis and peptide incorporation of an unnatural amino acid containing activity-based probe for protein tyrosine phosphatases." Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letter, 2009, In press.  (Available for viewing through Science Direct)

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): Behrooz Fallahi

Abstract
This NIU inventor enables a semi-active suppression of unwanted vibrations in mechanical/architectural systems by using a novel self-tuning vibration absorber system. The design belongs to semi-active vibration suppression class whereby the apparent inertia of the vibration absorber is changed to achieve the desired performance. This is achieved through design of a carrier rod assembly partnered with a tuning mechanism. The tuning mechanism detects the vibration of the mechanical/structure system and positions the moving block of the carrier rod such that the phase difference between them becomes 90 degrees and thereby suppressing the vibration of the entire system. A hollow shafted motor is used as part of the tuning mechanism. This increases the tuning mass to carrier rod mass ratio and thereby increases the bandwidth of the device. The self-tuning absorber is particularly effective in reducing the hunting motion of railroad cars.

Potential commercial use and users:
Railroad industry, building and bridge architecture, manufacturing equipment

Advantages:
The motor of the innovative vibration absorber system acts as part of the tuning mass and thereby providing a higher bandwidth. Since this vibration absorber is semi-active, it requires low power to operate and is more economical to operate.

Status: Patent No. 8,044,629

 

Inventor(s): C.T. Lin 

Abstract 
The present invention relates to a sol-gel sensor capable of a color change via a charge-transfer mechanism upon detection of a chemical and surface contaminant. This invention also provides a decontaminant that cleanses the air and/or surface area by capturing the compound without creating toxic byproducts. The sensors are capable of being affixed to any surface. For example, they can be stuck on a person’s shirt or included in a coating on the surface of an object such as a vehicle. 

Potential commercial uses and users: 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), waste management, metal industries, military, Homeland Security, first responders.

Advantages: 
Portable, immediate colorimetric (color change), upon exposure to contaminant compounds, highly sensitive, can be used by non-technical personnel and can be attached to clothing of soldier or any other surface, such as tanks or other vehicles. 

Status: Patent No. 8,545,762

 

Inventor(s): Bogdan Dabrowski, Steven Remsen

Abstract
Ceramic materials have been increasingly researched due to their unique properties of reversible oxygen storage/release capacities (OSC) at elevated-temperatures. The formula of this novel ceramic material consists of transition metal elements that are bi-pyramidal-coordinated to oxygen and rare earth ions, when combined behave like an “oxygen sponge”. Just as a sponge can absorb and release water under different pressures, these materials can absorb and release oxygen when exposed to different temperatures or gases. This property enables novel separation of the major components of air in the atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen, by storing the oxygen in the ceramic materials and leaving nitrogen in the atmosphere.

Potential commercial use and users:
Oxygen production by thermal swing absorption for oxy-fuel “clean coal” power plants; automotive exhaust catalysts; H2-O2 fuel cells; solar water splitting methods; steel, copper, and plastic production and other industrial production processes which require high-purity oxygen and have large amounts of waste heat. Chemical-looping by oxygen pressure swing absorption for efficient and pollutant-free combustion and fuels reforming.

Advantages:
The novel hexagonal ceramic materials selectively absorb and release oxygen with near 100% selectivity while not absorbing other gases. Unlike other oxygen storage materials, which depend on the creation of oxygen ion vacancies at high-temperatures, this system rely on phase change due to oxygen filling/discharge of the interstitial sites. Material has been shown to have higher OSC than current commercial ceramic materials, while operating at lower temperatures and with a smaller necessary temperature gradient as well as exhibits faster oxygen absorption/desorption rates compared to the prior art. Material is also stable under highly reducing conditions of H2 and CO. 

Status: Patent No. 8,980,213 
Continuation patent application pending

 


Bogdan Dabrowski

Bogdan Dabrowski

Department of Physics

Inventor(s): Jozef J. Bujarski, Peter D. Nagy 

Abstract 
This invention concerns an RNA-RNA construct and a method for increasing recombination frequency when the RNA is replicated. A first RNA molecule is derived from a single-stranded RNA virus such that it has a non-naturally occurring sequence at least 25 nucleotides long upstream of a set of sequences active in binding an RNA polymerase. The non-naturally occurring sequences are complementary in an antisense orientation to a sequence in a second target RNA molecule also derived from a single-stranded RNA virus. The RNA molecules form a heteroduplex thus enhancing recombination. In general, this technology allows for utilization of RNA virus infections to modify the expression of host or viral genes. 

Potential commercial uses and users: 
Inducing viral resistance in transgenic plants. Activation of selected host genes (e.g., fluorescent proteins) triggered by viral infection. Activation or amplification of ribozymes. Gene therapy.

Advantages: 
This targeting system is easy to design and use. It makes possible in planta ad-hoc generation of mRNA sequences which otherwise would be difficult or impossible to obtain. 

Status: Patent No. 5,877,401

 

Inventor(s): Elizabeth Gaillard, James Dillon

Abstract
The glutathione mimic prodrug is used to administer phosphorylated derivatives as antioxidants for disease prevention and treatment. Targeted diseases include ocular disorders, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, general aging, and arterial ischemic stroke, various types of cancers, asthma, sickle cell disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, among many others. Glutathione mimics are also effective as radiation protectors allowing healthy tissue to be spared radiation damage during cancer treatment.

Potential commercial use and users:
Pharmaceutical companies, veterinary clinics

Advantages:
Glutathione mimic prodrugs are more effective than currently available pharmaceutical products with the elimination of unwanted metabolism, and are virtually non-toxic because they are natural product derivatives. The prodrugs target specific cells or tissues for therapeutic purposes and allow for much higher doses of radiation to be used in radiation therapy treatment due to the enhanced protective effect to healthy tissue. The compounds can be administered orally, subcutaneously or parenterally and can be administered alone or as an active ingredient in combination with pharmaceutically acceptable carriers, diluents, adjuvants and vehicles. The compounds are effective for all warm-blooded animals, in particular mammals, including humans.

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): James Benson

The successful cryopreservation of tissues is of immense importance to a vast array of medical, agricultural, and scientific applications. There is a pressing need for reliable cryopreservation of many tissue types including articular cartilage, kidney, liver, and many more. Cryopreservation of these tissues would facilitate donations that individuals give for their own use when undergoing induced procedures, and would greatly facilitate banking, testing, and donor host matching for transplantation from individuals of the same species. Well cryopreserved tissues also pose considerable advantages over chemically preserved tissues for histological and pathological testing. In particular, they retain most biological functions and as such provide an additional avenue for functional as well as histological testing.

NIU’s invention is a device and method for processing tissues during ultra-rapid cryopreservation.  The cooling and warming protocols are designed so that a careful optimal balance of these effects may be achieved so that deleterious ice formation is eliminated. This apparatus utilizes two cooling blocks, cooled by circulating cryogenic liquid, to cool and hermetically seal a tissue sample in a thin layer of metal.  This is achieved by pressing the cooling blocks with variable pressure so that the sample, which is sandwiched between two thin metal layers, comes into contact with both blocks for a sufficient amount of time for equilibrium temperatures to be reached. The pressing also causes the metal layers to crimp forming a hermetic seal around the tissue sample. The blocks may additionally be warmed to provide thawing of the sample for examination. It would be used as an improved method for cryopreservation of tissues with reductions in cryoprotectant chemical use and ice formation.

Present state of the art yields very limited recovery after thawing for most tissue types. This limited recovery is due, in part, to the maximal cooling and warming rates achievable by the cryopreservation method or system. Low cooling and warming rates allow for the formation of intra - and inter-cellular ice that is widely believed to be irreversibly damaging to cells and tissues. This is ameliorated in part by the addition of chemical protectants, but the concentrations needed to allow for ice-avoidance at low cooling rates is toxic to cells and tissues. High pressure is known to reduce ice formation in tissues, but can also cause structural or other damage to tissues. High concentrations of cryoprotectant chemicals are also known to reduce ice formation in tissues, but can cause cytotoxic effects and structural damage to cells and tissues. 

Status: Patent Pending

 


James Benson

James Benson

Mathematical Sciences

Inventor(s): Lichuan Liu

Ten to 15 % of newborns spend their first days inside Neonatal intensive care units (incubators) thereby increasing their survival rates dramatically. However, the high levels of noise in the units cause numerous undesired and adverse health effects, such as sleep disturbances, perceived stress in heart and respiratory rates as well as high occurrence of hearing loss or damage to the infant. This wireless active noise control system technology enables newborns in incubators to hear their mothers’ voice while reducing harmful noises and maintaining communication of infant cries, coos and breathing signals. Unlike passive noise control methods such as acoustical foam paddings and infant earmuffs, the active noise control system generates anti-noise that acoustically cancels unwanted noise. This technology when applied to an incubator unit offers protection for an infant’s hearing, soothes the infant via parents voices and maintains audible contact of infants breathing and cries for medical staff all without restricting the newborn’s movement or impeding views of the child in the incubator. 

Status: Patent Pending

 

Inventor(s): Lichuan Liu

Abstract
In wireless sensor networks (WSN), exact location and position information acquisition is critical for both performance and efficiency of network performance. The sensing of data without accurate positioning is limiting. This innovative WSN method utilizes two types of nodes. Reference nodes with known locations transmit linear frequency modulation continuous wave (FMCW) signals while general sensor nodes estimate the range difference to reference nodes based on the received signals “frequency difference.” Exact location information is then obtained by solving a set of hyperbolic equations and does not require the synchronizations of traditional GPS systems. Excellent performance and accuracy is obtained by utilizing the linear frequency modulation continuous wave (FMCW) and frequency difference of arrival (FDOA) techniques.

Potential commercial use and users:
Civilian and military areas; environmental monitoring and protection, tragedy rescue, wild animal protection

Advantages:
This new wireless sensor network (WSN) positioning method is cost-effective, scalable, and is easily implemented. Unlike Global Positioning Systems, which require access to a minimum of four satellites for accurate position location and thereby require high power, larger sizes and higher costs to utilize, this system does not rely on satellites and thereby can be utilized in many environments and applications that are challenging for traditional GPS nodes. These areas include urban areas with tall buildings, indoors, tunnels, as well as mountainous and forested areas. The reduced sensor nodes power and size requirements along with lower associated costs than traditional GPS nodes make this technology more adaptable to portable and wearable devices.

Status: Patent Pending