While energy conservation is becoming increasingly important in today's world, there is no convenient, inexpensive, easy-to-use energy monitoring and control product for residential and small business markets. To fill the void, this E-Team developed i-conserve, an energy conservation solution for small businesses and homes that consists of a wireless sensor network of modules (outlets), a base station that acts as a hub for the information in the network, and software that modifies energy settings in order to maximize efficiency and also provides the user with recommendations on how to improve efficiency. The base station is a USB ZigBee dongle (an electronic device that must be attached to a computer in order for it to use protected software) that allows a computer to communicate with the ZigBee mesh network. ZigBee itself is a new advancement in wireless sensor network technology that represents a reduction in cost and power consumption.
The team received a small amount of funding as part of the 2002 "E-SHIP Venture Fund and Competitions" Course and Program grant to PSU. The team has already begun prototyping, attended a ZigBee conference to begin networking, and filed two provisional patents.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a dangerous swelling of the abdominal aorta, the vascular conduit that supplies oxygenated blood to the legs. Rupture of AAAs account for 15,000 deaths annually in the US. Open surgical repair of AAAs is currently the gold standard therapy, but comes with significant drawbacks: mid-procedure mortality rates range from 1.4-7.6%, and a number of patients are ineligible for the surgery because they cannot tolerate its invasiveness. As an alternative to open surgical repair, many new stent-grafts have been developed that slide into the aorta and essentially exclude the aneurysm from circulation. These devices are seen as a promising treatment that could reduce mortality rates, patient recovery time, and procedural costs, yet current stent-grafts are suboptimal: only about half of AAA patients are eligible for stent-graft treatment because of the varying anatomy of aneurysms, and the stent-grafts themselves suffer from long-term durability issues involving leaking and the migration of the devices from the site of the aneurysm. To address these issues this E-Team proposes to develop a stent-graft with an adhesive delivery platform that actively seals the stent-graft and fixes it securely in place in the aorta.
Update: the team, now incorporated as Endoluminal Sciences, has received $2 million in venture capital funding and is moving toward clinical trials.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a cardiac rhythm disorder that can lead to heart palpitations, chest pain, and clot formation that can lead to strokes. Medications used to control the symptoms of AF have had limited success and come with significant side effects. Recent research suggests that AF is caused by electrically abnormal cells in the right and left side pulmonary veins; with this in mind, percutaneous catheter techniques have been developed in which a catheter is used to ablate (destroy) the conducting tissue around the abnormal cells, electrically isolating them so that they cannot initiate AF. However, this procedure has had limited success due to the fact that the catheter cannot always access the right-sided pulmonary veins given their physical location in the body and the variability of pulmonary vein anatomy from person to person.
To address this issue, this E-Team developed a novel sheath system that can target a catheter directly toward the right-sided pulmonary veins, leading to more effective AF ablations. The sheath system utilizes an anchored trans-septal sheath and an inner, pre-shaped guiding sheath to direct the ablation catheter directly toward right-sided pulmonary veins. The team also designed several inner sheaths to optimize the targeting of the catheter depending on whether the right superior, right inferior, or both right-sided pulmonary veins together are being isolated.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, 2006 - $1,500
This E-Team is developing an electrotactile Braille display to allow the blind to read text from a computer screen. The device, essentially a small box with lines of electrodes representing Braille dots, uses electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves in the user's fingertips, simulating the feel of raised Braille. The device downloads text from a computer through a USB connection.
There are other text-reading Braille displays on the market, but none that use electrical stimulation. Current devices move a series of pins up and down to change the Braille text being displayed, but the high number of small moving parts brings the price of these displays up to $10,000, limiting their market. The team estimates their device will cost a few hundred dollars.
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, 2006 - $17,250
This E-Team is developing an automated tuberculosis (TB) tester for the developing world. The current method of TB diagnosis, acid fast bacilli (AFB) sputum microscopy, is slow and unreliable: after collecting the sample, technicians spend 20-30 minutes looking for TB on a recommended 300 fields on each slide. Technician fatigue, lack of training, technician shortages and human error make sputum microscopy, especially in the developing world, highly inaccurate. By automating the slide reading process and replacing error-prone technicians, the team believes the TB tester will make TB diagnosis faster and more consistent, reducing resources wasted on false positives and letting fewer false negatives slip by.
This E-Team is developing the City-Climber, a wall-climbing robot intended for use in the inspection of building facades. New York City law mandates the inspection of building facades every five years, and the task is currently accomplished by lowering three trained workers down the side of the building by scaffold equipment. Each additional drop to reach other areas of the façade requires a complete relocation of the rigging equipment, making the process time-consuming and expensive (the cost for one day can exceed $3,000). The E-Teams robot adheres to the wall by employing aerodynamic attraction produced by a vacuum rotor package. Cameras and sensors inside the robot are used to assess the condition of the building façade, and the robot itself is remotely operated by a joystick.
This E-Team is evaluating the commercial potential of a soy-based plasticizer developed by Battelle, an Ohio-based non-profit research organization. Plasticizers are substances added to plastics or other materials to make or keep them soft and pliable. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plasticizers cause significant health problems and are banned for use in medical devices and toys, but current alternatives to PVC cannot deliver low cost, high performance, and non-toxicity. The team believes its soy-based plasticizer has the ability to do just that, offering an inexpensive, effective, non-toxic, renewable plasticizer.
The technology is already developed and patented, and the team has put in 500 hours identifying market opportunities for it. The team is utilizing NCIIA funds to take the product to market: they will interview industry and market professionals, test product formulations, develop business and operational plans, and determine the best path to market.
This E-Team, already incorporated as Orion Security LSP LLC, is in the process of completing prototype development of their low-cost GPS location device. The company, formed in Lehigh's Integrated Product Development program, currently runs a location-based service called Findum, which provides a person's location through a cellular telephone. The user, say a parent, logs onto Findum's online application, enters their username and password, and instantly acquires the exact location of the cell phone--say a child carrying it in her pocket.
While location-based services like this represent a growing industry with several competitors on the market, the high price of location devices (from $250-$800) have prevented explosive growth. However, the team has developed a manufacturing process that allows them to sell the devices for $50-$100. The team is now perfecting that manufacturing process and designing prototypes for their three target markets: collars for pets, shoe inserts for children, and vehicle devices for business-to-business fleet management.
Of the more than thirteen million individuals in fifty-five developing countries that depend on small-scale gold mining to survive, most employ an ancient and harmful practice called "mercury amalgamation" in order to extract the gold. After panning for gold in local bodies of water, the miners pour gold-bonding mercury into their pans to form a solid paste. They wash off excess mercury into the water and boil down the paste to yield pure gold. The mercury in the water poisons the miners, the communities living downstream, and pollutes the environment. The European Union, the world's largest global exporter of mercury, will soon ban mercury exports, putting tens of millions of artisanal gold miners out of work.
This E-Team has a solution: an inexpensive (~$30), manually powered centrifugal gold extraction device. Based on industrial-size gold centrifuges, the device uses lightweight modern plastics to create a hand crank-based centrifuge capable of extracting gold with little effort and without requiring mercury.
Two competitors exist, but both of their solutions still require the use of at least some mercury.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2006 - $13,500
This E-Team is looking to address the digital divide between developed and developing countries by creating a low-cost cell phone with PC-like capability. The cell phone will have a general-purpose processor, removable flash memory, external keyboard, and the ability to output to a television. The team is focusing its initial efforts on India, where demand for cell phones is growing and television access is already established. The PI has a strong relationship with Microsoft Research India and Research in Motion, and will work with them on prototype development.
There are other "smartphones" on the market with functionality similar to the E-Team's design, but all come at considerable cost ($500+). The team will try to sell its device for less than $100.