University of Central Florida tech innovations

The University of Central Florida ranked among the top 25 universities in the world for the number of patents awarded in 2012.

Changing Colors Of Safety

Intelligent tape changes color in the presence of hydrogen. That’s what technology developed through hydrogen research has produced, as part of a $20-million grant awarded to the University of Central Florida from NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. Rockledge-based HySense Technology LLC, UCF’s latest faculty-led spinoff company, uses an intelligent tape to detect hydrogen leaks.

HySense Founder Nahid Mohajeri, a researcher at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, co-developed the technology, which detects hydrogen leaks wherever hydrogen is produced, stored or transported. Early detection of the highly flammable, invisible gas can prevent dangerous explosions and casualties.

The specialty tape uses proprietary color-changing pigments, Intellipigment™, to alert users to the exact location of a hydrogen leak. The tape can be wrapped around pipe fittings, flanges, valves, and storage and transportation vessels. Color change occurs in a matter of seconds when hydrogen is detected and in concentrations as low as 1 percent hydrogen.

The Intellipigment™ tape has been tested and evaluated by chemical manufacturers and at hydroelectric and nuclear power plants. HySense plans to begin selling in the U.S. market soon.

“We have received many inquiries for this hydrogen-sensing tape for a variety of potential applications,” says Svetlana Shtrom, director of UCF’s Office of Technology Transfer. “Now, with the NASA–UCF–HySense partnership, the product will be brought to the marketplace. We anticipate a variety of opportunities ahead for improving the safety in handling this widely used gas.”

Cleaning Up

First you generate nearly $100,000 in energy savings on a project. Then you win a prestigious industry award. That’s the story of Greensleeves LLC, a clean energy solutions firm housed at the UCF Business Incubator in Winter Springs.

Greensleeves helped the University of Findlay, the largest private college in northwest Ohio, save $83,000 (57 percent) in energy costs and $7,500 in maintenance costs during year one of a new building on campus. Greensleeves’ intelligent optimization software was an integral component of the project that garnered a 2014 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Technology Award in Educational Facilities – New Construction. That AHSRAE award is the highest achievement in the tech category, recognizing outstanding performance by members who have applied innovative building designs.

Innovations featured in the new building include a geothermal heat pump energy plant, a control system that prevents excessive heat dumping in the winter, and use of radiant cooling and active child beam sensible cooling using ground temperature water in place of a chiller operation for much of the year. In addition to monetary savings, the system is eliminating more than 800 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Greensleeves has locations in Findlay; Zeeland, Mich.; and Winter Springs. The company joined the UCFBI-Winter Springs in 2010.

Patented Innovation

Have patents, will innovate. Apparently, that’s the plan at UCF, which ranked among the top 25 universities in the world for the number of patents awarded in 2012.

The ranking by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) and and the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) is based on data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. UCF researchers received 72 patents, ranking them No. 21. The data—the most recent available—had UCF ranked above such academic powerhouses as Northwestern, Harvard and Duke universities.

“This ranking recognizes that the innovation coming out of UCF is impacting our local economy and raising the university’s research profile around the world,” cites MJ Soileau, vice president for research and commercialization.

The NAI and the IPO compiled the listing to emphasize the impact university research has on worldwide economic development.

“University inventors are the discoverers and creators of new solutions to existing problems, and, as such, are key contributors to the advancement of technology,” says Paul R. Sanberg, president of the NIA and senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of South Florida. “Protection of this intellectual property, through the patenting process, underpins the creation of new industries and employment.”

Over the years, professors at UCF have earned patents on many technologies, including a technique to detect Crohn’s disease; a nontoxic method of removing oil from water that doesn’t harm the environment; and liquid crystal display technology, which is why we can see cell phone screens in daylight or in the dark.

With the NAI/IPO ranking, UCF has proven itself to be a leader not just in the numbers of patents awarded but in the quality of those patents. UCF is ranked in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ listing of the top 20 universities in the world in patent strength. Also, three UCF inventors (with a combined 104 patents) will be honored in March with the designation of NAI Fellow for their innovative work and its impact on economic development and society.

editor’s note: in these nai/ipo rankings, usf placed no. 15 and the university of florida research foundation inc. placed no. 22.

Optical Precision

A UCF optics researcher has received the state of Florida’s only equipment award from the Air Force’s Defense University Research Equipment Program (DURIP).

Axel Schülzgen, a professor in the College of Optics and Photonics, and his colleagues were awarded $870,000 to purchase equipment that will create the glass preforms necessary for producing fiber optics. Optical fibers are the backbone of most telecommunications systems, transporting vast amounts of data via the Internet and telephone connections, and fuel a multibillion global industry.

With the new equipment, Schülzgen and his team will be able to make their own preforms—cylindrical chunks of glass—the raw material for fiber optic cable.

Nanoscience Equals Big Business

From research to commercialization one “coat” at a time.

Building on the recent success of UCF spin-off Garmor Inc. in making a powder form of super-strong graphene available to industry, UCF’s NanoScience Center is developing a new program to make a graphene-based spray coating that would help multiple industries fight corrosion.

The goal of the program to is to provide a cost-effective, large-area polymer/graphene-based coating technology to both strengthen mechanical components, such as materials used for the construction of aircraft and cars, and protect materials like gas and oil pipelines from corrosion.

“We can use graphene and composite materials to produce new applications for automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, the military and even the medical industries to utilize this extremely powerful material,” says Sudipta Seal, Ph.D., director of the NanoScience Technology Center and Advanced Materials Processing Analysis Center and a professor of materials science and engineering.

Seal has published articles on the strength and flexibility of aluminum composites reinforced with carbon nanotubes that is central to the process. The research program will concurrently focus on developing graphene oxide, a plastic host and a plasma spray.

Garmor will assist with formulating the graphene oxide. The company has licensed technology developed by NanoScience Center researchers Richard Blair, Ph.D., and David Restrepo. (See FORWARD Florida, Issue 6, 2013-14.)

The scientists will modify graphene, which originates from graphite similar to that found in pencil lead, so it can be adhered to a plastic host and sprayed onto a surface while retaining its innate strength and elasticity.