University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 2005 - $20,000
This E-Team developed an infrared imaging system for medical diagnosis. The team envisions the imaging system as a low-cost alternative to X-rays, possibly helping make medical diagnostic equipment more readily available in developing countries.
This E-Team developed a novel, contactless, magnet-based buoy to capture the ocean's wave energy and convert it into electrical energy. By "contactless" the team means that previous buoy designs have used hydraulic or pneumatic approaches, which create physical contact between the piston and cylinder, leading to system damage during rough storms as well as decreased efficiency, while their design employs magnets for contactless mechanical energy transmission. The magnets are configured in a piston, producing radial magnetic flux that transmits a generator load to the cylinder; the motion of the piston is transformed to rotation using a ball screw to drive the permanent magnet rotary generator. Thick cables attached to the bottom of the buoy connect it to an electrical grid on the mainland.
The team created a proof-of-concept prototype that showed an overall system efficiency of 70-80%. The goal of this grant was not so much to commercialize a product immediately, but to further prototype and test their design to enable commercial-scale devices in the future.
This E-Team undertook two separate activities: prototyping its micro-fuel cell technology, and creating a long-term marketing plan. The technology is PM2, a novel planar, micro-fluidic, membraneless micro-fuel cell that relies on laminar flow of fuel and oxidant solutions. Initial lab tests demonstrated that the design has the potential to deliver superior power density to portable electronic devices when compared with competing membrane and membraneless fuel cell designs.
The team continued prototyping PM2 to go from a 1-mW lab device to a 10-watt commercial prototype with an appropriate price. Alongside prototype development the team identified manufacturing, distribution, sales, and venture capital partners, segmented markets, determined market entry point, and identified partners for commercialization. The primary target markets are the defense and industrial sectors, specifically in the areas of portable power, wireless scanning, and communication devices.
This E-Team developed a clay-based water purification system for household use in developing countries. The system consists of a ceramic filter element, made of kiln-fired clay treated with colloidal silver, set in a plastic receptacle tank with a plastic lid and spigot. These filters have been produced and promoted in Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia, but have not been widely adopted due to poor financial planning and failures in meeting the expected amount and quality of water produced. The team improved the filtration system and at the same time developed customized training that creates broader awareness, encouraging adoption on a much larger scale, and stimulating local production and support.
Water scarcity is the biggest challenge of the 21st century, and proper wastewater treatment is critical to public and environmental health because it protects and recycles the limited supply of fresh water. Throughout the world, billions of gallons of industrial and domestic sewage are treated in centralized wastewater facilities through the acceleration of natural biodegradation processes, relying on a balance of healthy microbes for optimal performance. This E-Team developed an innovative biotechnology system to monitor and diagnose common microbiological problems that interfere with the reclamation of wastewater in sewage treatment plants worldwide. Problems often result from undesired blooms of microbes, but many microbes do not yield to cultivation, the traditional method of identification. The team's DNA sequence-based technology allows microbes to be detected and identified without cultivation to determine relative quantities in a sample. Once problem microbes are identified, treatment plants can design and apply the appropriate remedy with quantitative information from the team's Biotechnology System.
This E-Team developed SecureGo-Cash, a USB flash drive equipped with encryption capability for secure online transactions. When connected to a USB port, SecureGo-Cash prompts the user for a password. Each SecureGo-Cash has a unique Machine ID, and once the user enters her password, she logs into any SecureGo-enabled website, uses the Machine ID as her identity, and completes a transaction. The website connects to the SecureGo server, verifies the authenticity of the request, and transfers the amount from the user's account to the merchant's account. Additionally, the user can set up a cash recovery account with SecureGo-Cash, and if the device is lost or stolen, can transfer the balance to this recovery account.
Bullex, launched at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received Advanced E-Team grants in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to develop the Intelligent Training System (ITS), an innovative fire extinguisher training device. The majority of today's live-fire extinguisher training is done by taking a bucket and filling it with kerosene or diesel, and water. After an instructor lights the fire, a trainee is given an extinguisher and told to put it out. This method is expensive, can be dangerous, and often requires a HAZMAT cleanup.
ITS makes fire extinguisher training more efficient by simulating the extinguishing of a real fire, removing costly extinguishant from the equation. First, flames are generated in a clean-burning, propane-fed pan equipped with digital sensors. If users aim properly and hit the sensors, they can quell the fire without the mess. The sensors then give out a reading on how well a trainee used the extinguisher. The device is cleaner, safer, and easier to use than the traditional training method.
2003 update: Bullex launched successfully in 2003, and now has 60 employees and estimated annual sales of $7.3 million. The company was featured in Fortune Small Business Magazine after making it to the final round of the magazine's national business plan competition, receiving honorable mention. Their customers include the US Navy, Northrop Grumman, Michelin, International Truck, and Trane.
Arteriotomies (the surgical incision of an artery) are required for all catheter-based procedures. Current medical practice requires a large, open incision, an invasive procedure which increases recovery time, hospital and procedure costs, and patient discomfort. To combat these problems, this E-Team developed a device that closes large arteriotomies percutaneously--that is, closes them through the skin in a minimally invasive procedure. The device consists of two components: a vessel-cutting tool, which creates an incision in the vessel of the specific size and shape of the catheter to be used, and a closure mechanism, made of a pre-placed nitinol structure, that provides complete hemostasis to the arteriotomy when the catheter is removed.
This E-Team is concentrating on the problem of the perishability of food and pharmaceutical items. Currently there are two methods of ensuring food/pharmaceutical safety: human predication of expiration, and chemical tags that change color upon product expiration. The E-Team aims to combat the deficiencies of these methods by developing a Time-Temperature Integrator (TTI) tag which, in a 1x2 inch housing, incorporates a temperature measure, a microprocessor, and an RF transceiver. Instead of using the color-change method, these tags record the temperature and time at thirty-second intervals. A calculation of shelf-life is then made based upon a proprietary algorithm that takes into account the current time/temperature and the optimal shelf-life of perishables under those specific conditions. A report of time, temperature and freshness is then sent to a wireless device.
University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 2005 - $12,500
Almost one billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, most in the developing world. To combat this massive problem, this E-Team created water purification technology in which contaminated water is put into a recycled plastic bottle coated with titanium dioxide and placed in the sun for several hours, killing not only bacteria but other harmful substances such as arsenic and herbicides. The team developed a low-cost manufacturing system for the bottles, field tested the bottles in the network of Peruvian villages they worked with for eight years prior, and researched proper approaches to commercialization of the technology. The team also pursued the possibility of adding a color-changing dye to the bottles to indicate when the destruction of harmful substances in the water has occurred and it is safe to drink.