Lehigh expands its innovation footprint

Lehigh faculty members won three National Innovation Awards last month at the TechConnect 2016 World Innovation Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. The awards were for the design of a medical oxygen concentrator, a method of producing biocompatible disinfectants, and a method of achieving narrow-beam semiconductor lasers.

Also at the annual event, four faculty members had papers accepted for Technical World Conference Presentations and 17 innovations by faculty members were accepted for poster sessions.

Lehigh’s TechConnect initiative was led by the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) which manages, protects and licenses intellectual property (IP) developed at Lehigh. Yatin Karpe, associate director of the OTT, led the Lehigh effort and is pursuing IP protection and commercialization for the innovations.

“TechConnect helps promote networking and collaboration among faculty inventors,” said Karpe. “Faculty who attend TechConnect regularly have benefited from newer industry and government connections, innovative thinking about the commercialization of their technologies, and a greater appreciation of customer and market needs.”

The P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, led by interim Dean John Coulter, and the Office of Economic Engagement, led by assistant vice president Cameron McCoy, supported Lehigh’s participation at the conference. This was Lehigh’s fourth consecutive appearance at TechConnect. Lehigh faculty members have received National Innovation Awards in each of those four years.

TechConnect, based in Cambridge, Mass., specializes in technology outreach and development. The organization’s annual conference brings together international technology transfer offices, companies and investment firms to identify promising technologies and early-stage companies from around the world.

The event is one of the world’s largest assemblies of technology, intellectual property, technology ventures, industrial partners and investors. This year’s conference was co-located with the National SBIR/STTR Conference, the National Innovation Summit and Showcase, and the Nanotech 2016 Conference and Expo.

TechConnect’s National Innovation Awards are based on the potentially positive impact that new technologies will have on industry.

Lehigh’s National Innovation Award winners were:

•    Rama Rao Vemula (chemical and biomolecular engineering) for “Prototype Design of Medical Oxygen Concentrator Using a Novel Rapid Pressure Swing Adsorption Process.” The device is designed to supply a continuous flow of 90-percent oxygen from ambient air to persons with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
•    Bryan Berger (chemical and biomolecular engineering) for “Design and Scalable Biosynthesis of Acid-Tolerant Enzymes as Broad-Spectrum, Biocompatible Disinfectants.” The enzymes are designed to provide enhanced activity against a broad range of microbial biofilms.
•    Sushil Kumar (electrical and computer engineering) for “A new antenna-feedback scheme to achieve emission in a narrow beam from metal-cavity semiconductor lasers.” The technique significantly increases output power levels of terahertz quantum cascade lasers, improving the lasers’ performance and making them suitable for mass production.

Lehigh was one of fewer than 10 universities to maintain a booth at TechConnect’s exhibit hall, said Gene Lucadamo, the industrial liaison for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. At the booth, the Lehigh contingent entertained visitors from Corning, Rubbermaid, SABIC, Panasonic, LG and other companies, and from the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and other government agencies.

“It was a busy booth,” said Lucadamo. “It was a good source of connections for us. Our presence at TechConnect has been growing each year. We’re getting more and more recognition for our faculty, we’re learning better how to present ourselves, and the technologies that our faculty members develop are gaining more visibility.”

Four faculty members had papers accepted for Technical World Conference Presentations:

•    Berger for “Engineering new, multi-substrate activity from an exolytic polysaccharide lyase”
•    Kelly Schultz (chemical and biomolecular engineering) for “Dynamic cell-material interactions measured by passive microrheology”
•    Yaling Liu (mechanical engineering and mechanics) for “Microfluidic devices for drug delivery and permeability evaluation”
•    Chao Zhou (electrical and computer engineering) for “Integrated photonic devices for ultrahigh-speed, space-division multiplexing optical coherence tomography”

Seventeen innovations by Lehigh faculty members were accepted for poster sessions. They were Liu (three innovations), Berger (two), Zhou (two), Himanshu Jain (materials science and engineering, two), Kumar (two), Vemula, Damien Thevenin (chemistry), Xuanhong Cheng (materials science and engineering), Liang Cheng (computer science and engineering), David Vicic (chemistry), and Martin Takac (industrial and systems engineering).

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Photos courtesy of Yatin Karpe and Gene Lucadamo

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