India is primarily an agricultural country, and modern technology plays a major role in its agricultural practices. Its farming machines are powered by internal combustion engines, with speed and torque variations effected using conventional gears, which causes the engines to lose fuel efficiency over time. To increase engine efficiency and to achieve infinitely variable transmission, this team is developing a Pulley Type Continuously Variable Transmission that can be incorporated into existing tractors and harvesters, eliminating the need for gears and gear boxes in the power train. A simple arrangement of two variable diameter pulleys connected by one angular contact Vari-speed Elastomer belt can be attached to the drive shaft, the pulleys being actuated by stepper motors and/or clutch-based hydraulic control systems. This changeover could result in major savings in fuel by running the engine at its efficient speed and driving at any desired speed through stepless variations.
WishVast: Building Trust and Social Capital using Cell-Phones
Pennsylvania State University
WishVast is a cell-phone-based business networking system that harnesses the pervasiveness of cellphones in developing countries to optimize resource utilization and facilitate people-to-people trade, with the ultimate goal of alleviating poverty. WishVast allows its users to join groups of local relevance to exchange information, meet new people based on shared interests, and build trusting relationships. Users can message a group to advertise themselves, their products or services, or get access to resources. Upon completion of a transaction over the WishVast network, users can exchange points to rate the quality of their interaction. Over time, the accrued points allow individuals to quantify their trustworthiness and leverage it with new business partners. Current applications include an ad-hoc job search system, field-tested in central Kenya, and STARTNet, a collaborative venture with North Carolina State University and the University of Pretoria that facilitates rural tourism development and marketing in South Africa.
The self-diagnostic diabetes industry is booming, estimated at $3 billion in 2008 with a forecast of $4 billion by 2013. For the 80 million Americans suffering from or at risk for diabetes, consistent glucose monitoring is essential to mitigating the health risks associated with unstable glucose levels. Today, there are two primary alternatives in the market: standard glucose meters employing the finger stick method and continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMS). At best, these point-of-care methods are invasive, painful, and imprecise in delivering timely information for patients and healthcare providers.
This team, incorporated as mobiLIFE, is developing the GlucoReader™, a painless, Bluetooth-enabled CGMS that provides precise readings at a fraction of the cost of current methods. By connecting readings from disposable microneedle patches with smartphone applications and web-based services, mobiLIFE provides patients and healthcare providers with continuous real-time data and triggered emergency alerts, enabling primary care physicians, patients, and family members to identify potential causes of glucose changes immediately and coordinate emergency care, insulin intake, and other treatments.
ASU is represented by two teams at this year’s event: Gel-Fuel and The Twig Light.
The Gel-Fuel team is working to create a solution to the human respiratory illnesses that result from indoor air pollution generated by solid cooking fuel. They have developed a working prototype of a clean burning Gel-Fuel stove that utilizes an ASU-built ethanol still as a source of fuel. The gelled ethanol fuel (as well as a burn chamber that can be retrofitted into existing stoves) creates a more sustainable way of life and method to combat the devastating personal and environmental health risks involved with daily indoor cooking with wood or other carbon-dense biomasses. A prototype is up and running in Domeabra, Ghana.
The Twig Light makes use of existing waste energy to produce clean electric light inside homes. The light works by applying a temperature difference across two surfaces of a thermoelectric generator. The upper section of the device is a small combustion chamber intended for burning any combustible material (e.g., twigs) and the lower section sits in a pan of water. The combustion process heats the upper chamber, establishing a temperature difference between the heated upper and cooled lower sections. This temperature difference powers the thermoelectric generator, establishing a voltage through the circuit and powering a bank of LEDs.
Daylight Solutions LLC has been created to bring The Twig Light to market; final prototypes are currently undergoing usability testing.
The comfort of a simple hot shower is out of reach for many around world, with effects on people’s health, hygiene and self-esteem. This team is developing the Ducha Halo, an affordable pressurized shower solution that provides a warm shower, reduces the spread of illness and reduces the amount of water used in traditional showers. The project originated from first-hand field research with impoverished families living in a transitional slum community of Santiago, Chile, as part of the Safe Agua initiative, a social innovation collaboration between Designmatters at Art Center College of Design (www.artcenter.edu/designmatters) and the Innovation Center of the NGO Un Techo Para mi Pais (http://www.untechoparamipais.org).
There are two models of the Ducha Halo: the Halo 1.0 (DIY) and Halo 2.0 (production). Halo 1.0 is a fully functioning DIY shower kit built for just $17 by assembling parts found at a local hardware store, and has brought significant relief to Chile’s earthquake-affected communities and slum-dwellers in Argentina. The increasing adoption of the DIY version encouraged the team to develop Halo 2.0, a design for production purposes that includes a wall-mountable showerhead, stainless steel body to be heated directly on a stove, and a foot pedal valve for hands-free water control.
Every second four babies are born across the world, totaling about 130 million births per year. Unfortunately, complications cause 6.3 million maternal and perinatal deaths per year, with the vast majority of those deaths occurring in developing countries—deaths that in many cases could have been prevented with basic interventions. But in some countries, up to half of expectant mothers do not have access to healthcare during their pregnancies.
This team of biomedical engineers is working closely with Jhpiego, the leading NGO in maternal and child healthcare, to develop an antenatal screening kit to deliver low-cost healthcare to women in even the remotest villages. The kit includes a variety of custom markers pre-filled with reagents for screening tests. The tests are intuitive and simple to use, allowing a semi-trained community health worker to mark a piece of paper and create a custom dipstick for the mother. The kit contains seven tests for conditions including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, malnutrition, and anemia. The team is pilot testing the kit in Nepal.
Relay Technology Management, Inc. is developing the Innovation Engine, a web-based analytics approach to identifying promising drug candidates from academic research institutions and early-stage biotechnology companies. The engine draws on sophisticated algorithms to analyze multiple aspects of early-stage technologies, including publications, clinical trial data, intellectual property, and commercial potential.
The software has the potential to make the technology transfer process from academia to industry in the bio and pharma space more efficient.
This team is addressing the issue of sanitation in developing countries through the development of a dry latrine system that provides sustainable, affordable, and safe treatment of human waste using the sun’s energy. While some dry (waterless) latrines are already being marketed, a system has yet to be developed that effectively inactivates Ascaris cysts, which present a major health risk to people in communities with inadequate sanitation facilities.
The team is working to create a latrine that captures both solid and liquid wastes, provides space to store solid waste for a specified time, exposes it to concentrated sunlight in order to deactivate and kill all pathogenic organisms, and then uses the deactivated waste as fertilizer in a revenue-generating microenterprise. The team has fielded several prototypes in remote areas of Bolivia and, using lessons learned from the field, is currently working to refine the design to make it more robust, effective and profitable.
In developing countries there is an extreme shortage of healthcare workers capable of giving injections safely and little infrastructure to transport liquid drugs that have to be refrigerated. As a result, 24 million cases of hepatitis, HIV, and other diseases are spread by unsafe needle practices each year, and five million children die because they live in reduced infrastructure villages with little or no refrigeration to keep vaccines or other medicines cold.
This team, called LyoGo, is developing a device that makes it easy to distribute, administer, and dispose of medicine around the world. LyoGo’s mixing technology stores a lyophilized (freeze-dried) drug and its liquid diluents in two chambers kept separate by a solid barrier. Due to the solid barrier, the injector reduces or eliminates the need for refrigeration of most compounds during transit or storage. Further, a safety shield locking design provides a self-contained sharps container that can be safely disposed of after use.
Continuing his theme of innovation, and following on from the launch of Startup America, President Obama toured the Penn State Engineering Lab - an NCIIA grant recipient - this week to talk about clean energy and business. While there he proposed a tax credit and other ideas aimed at getting businesses to retrofit their buildings and save costs.
This reminded us that in 2005, NCIIA awarded an E-Team grant to a Penn State student team to develop an energy conservation solution for small businesses and homes to do just that. The team launched a start-up, I-Conserve, one of a dozen alternative or clean energy companies that NCIIA has helped launch.