Washington Technology Center awarded $450,000 to six company-university research teams in December 1999 under the Research & Technology Development program (RTD). The projects were evenly split between the University of Washington and Washington State University, with nearly 60 percent of the funding going to projects at WSU. A summary of these projects is featured below.
This is the first round of awards made since WTC started offering the RTD program semiannually. Project funding will now be awarded in June and December every year. “We made this change to be more responsive to the needs of companies that don’t qualify for our FTI / EA programs,” says Lee Cheatham, WTC’s executive director. “This includes companies with over 100 employees and / or companies that need more than $30K for research. In the past, companies would have to wait up to a year to apply for funding. Many companies can’t wait that long, particularly when they’re in a competitive market.”
Awards in Microelectronics
StressWave, Inc., Kent
Researcher: Brian Flinn, UW Dept. of Materials Science & Engineering
Over 60% of aircraft component failures are caused by metal fatigue problems, particularly cracking around drilled fastener holes in the fuselage. Aircraft are particularly sensitive to fatigue because of their thin, highly stressed structures. Current manufacturing methods to prevent in-service fatigue damage are both labor and tooling intensive and are not amenable to automation. WTC funded an earlier FTI project wherein StressWave, working with UW researcher Brian Flinn, optimized a new automated process using company-developed equipment that makes the holes more resistant to fatigue. The focus of this 18-month RTD project will be to generate the data needed to commercialize the StressWave process for the full range of metal alloys used in aircraft manufacturing.
Spectra Lux Corporation, Kirkland
Researcher: Mark Kuzyk, WSU Dept. of Physics
Spectra Lux Corporation is a manufacturer of aircraft lightplates and lighted cockpit keyboards. Mark Kuzyk, of the WSU Physics Dept., will conduct research to reduce the amount of energy required to illuminate a given area, making the company’s products more efficient and less expensive to manufacture. The scope of the two-year project includes the development of a prototype and transfer of the manufacturing process to Spectra Lux. In addition to becoming more competitive in existing markets, the company plans to expand into untapped markets that use illuminated displays such as the automobile, industrial, and medical equipment industries.
Awards in Advanced Materials / Manufacturing
D & A Instrument Company, Port Townsend
Researcher: Thanos Papanicolaou, WSU Dept. of Civil Engineering
D & A Instrument is currently developing an instrument that can monitor the movement of gravel in streambeds. That’s good news for salmon, which require gravel for spawning, and for state and local governments, that are largely responsible for preserving or restoring salmon habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
The technology, called the Gravel Transport Sensor (GTS), is an acoustic device that detects and counts gravel particles moving downstream as they impact a steel pipe (recorded as number of “pings”). Thano Papanicolaou, of WSU’s Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is working with D&A to develop and test algorithms to calculate the rate of flow of gravel based on the collected data. These algorithms will serve as the basis for embedded software in the product. Currently the monitoring of gravel movement is highly labor intensive, requiring individuals to physically go into the streams and collect samples of gravel. Decision makers in several government agencies have already expressed an interest in the product, according to John Downing, President of D & A. These include the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington State Dept. of Ecology, and state and federal highway departments. GTS can also be used to monitor the movement of gravel as a result of logging and increased urbanization, and to determine the effect of scour on bridge supports in gravel bed streams.
Researcher: Ann Mescher, UW Mechanical Engineering Dept.
Aculight designs, develops, and manufactures solid-state lasers for new applications in industries as diverse as medicine, semiconductor processing, and telecommunications. As solid-state lasers get smaller and power output increases, cooling the laser becomes a significant challenge. In collaboration with Ann Mescher of UW’s Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Aculight is investigating MEMS processes at WTC’s Microfab Lab to achieve a novel thermal management system that efficiently removes high heat flux from the laser’s package. Aculight, one of the top 100 fastest growing private companies in Washington, forecasts overall sales in excess of $20 million by 2004.
Awards in Biotechnology / Biomedical Devices
Barlean’s Organic Oils, Ferndale
Researcher: Norman Lewis, WSU Institute of Biological Chemistry
Numerous scientific studies suggest that there is a connection between cultures that ingest a diet high in plant lignans (phyto-estrogens) and a lower incidence of estrogen-related cancers including breast, colon and prostate cancers. Flaxseed and flaxseed meal contain high levels of plant lignans, and have been marketed as health food products for many years.
Barlean’s Organic Oils, a leading U.S. manufacturer of health food supplements, has teamed with WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry to commercialize a proprietary method of extracting plant lignans from flaxseed with a consistent, high level of potency. The company intends to market the resulting product as a nutriceutical.
Micronics, Inc., Redmond
Researcher: Paul Yager, UW Dept. of Bioengineering
Paul Yager, UW Dept. of Bioengineering, is assisting Micronics in the development of an inexpensive disposable microfluidic cartridge. The cartridge, about the size of a credit card, is used to perform blood tests and other diagnostics requiring body fluids. The microfluidic system provides results at the “point of care”, such as in the doctor’s office, instead of being sent to a laboratory. Just one of these “lab-on-chip” devices can potentially perform up to 20 different medical diagnostic tests using the same sample. The microfluidic technologies behind these advances were originally developed at the University of Washington using the same microfabrication techniques established in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. The research team is using WTC’s Microfabrication Lab to create the prototype and optimize MEMS-based manufacturing methods.
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