Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

University researchers' patents documented

By Susan Truelove

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 30 - April 27, 1995

(Continued from last week's issue)

Bristol-Myer Squibb sponsored work by chemistry professor David Kingston and colleagues, who received four patents for developments with taxol, a well-known anti-cancer compound that comes from the bark of the slow-growing and scarce Pacific Yew. Two patents are for forming water soluble derivatives of taxol. Being water-soluble makes the substance easier to administer. Former graduate student Zhi-Yang Zhao is co-inventor.

The third patent is for a method of converting cephalomannine to taxol. Cephalomannine, which occurs in the bark with taxol, has a similar structure. Kingston and former graduate student Anthony Molinero were successful in changing it to taxol, which significantly increases taxol availability from the endangered Pacific Yew. In the meantime, Bristol-Myer Squibb has developed a way to develop taxol from a renewable resource, Kingston reports.

A fourth patent developed by Kingston and former student Gamini Samaranayake is for taxol with a rearranged structure, which has some advantages over the original taxol.

Staff members from Dow Chemical were co-inventors of a patent with a faculty member and a student with the NSF Science and Technology Center for High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites at Virginia Tech. Center director James McGrath and former graduate student Daniel Knauss with Maurice Marks, Stephen Bales, Thomas Chamberlin, and Michael Mullins, all of Dow, developed an improved form of carbonate polymers, which will enhance resistance to solvents of materials such as is used in snow mobiles, all-terrain vehicles, and safety glass.

A second center patent was issued to McGrath, former graduate student Keith Lyon, center researcher Richey Davis, and former graduate students Anne Texier and Attila Gungor for developing fine powders of ketone-containing aromatic polymers, and the manufacturing process. Developing such powders and methods for processing them means that solvents will not be necessary in manufacturing these polymer products. Elimination of solvents from processing increases safety to the worker and reduces toxic industrial wastes. This patent is being marketed by the CIT.

Another private firm active in patent development is Akzo.

* Two such patents by Garth Wilkes, chemical engineering professor, and Bing Wang, a post-doctoral associate now at 3M, concern the synthesis of novel transparent organic-inorganic coatings. These materials enhance abrasion resistance of the substrate that they are placed upon. Wilkes also has a patent with his student Anthony B. Brennan, now on the faculty at the University of Florida, for the use of a polymeric catalyst in the synthesis of sol-gel derived ceramic or hybrid organic/inorganic materials.

* Harry W. Gibson, a chemistry professor, earned three patents--two of them sponsored by Akzo. Gibson and colleagues design molecules that allow novel blends or new uses for polymers. Former graduate student Yadollah Delaviz is co-inventor on the Akzo patents. Former graduate student Ashish Pandya is co-inventor on the third patent for commercially valuable polymeric ketones and the method for preparing them. Polymeric ketones are used in jet airplane skin, for example.

VTIP also markets university patents, including:

* a large-scale microbubble-generator system that can be used to clean contaminated soil and wastewater, developed by chemical engineering professors Donald Michelsen and the late Felix Sebba. Pilot studies are ongoing to treat hazardous releases by injecting microbubbles into wells at polluted sites to scour contaminants and introduce oxygen to enhance biological breakdown of gasoline and other pollutants. Microbubbles can also improve flotation of paper and food particles for recycling, reuse, or disposal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding a field test of the technology at a contaminated Air Force site.

* a lift-up support system or trellis for raspberries that allows growers to mow the canes. Inventor Herbert Stiles, researcher at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Experiment Station, reports, "Producers were having problems removing the canes on fall-fruiting raspberries. Mowing reduced hand labor, but the trellises were an obstacle." He designed a support system that can be lifted so that a sickle bar can cut the canes.

Other patents received last year include:

* Refinement of a custom-fitting earplug formed in the ear using foaming action, invented by John G. Casali, professor of industrial and systems engineering, and former student Daniel W. Mauney.

* A carburetor with a lagging bypass air valve, invented by former mechanical engineering graduate student Jeffery Beall.

* Technology for dynamic measurement of material strength and life under cyclic loading, developed by Ken Reifsnider, director of Virginia Tech's Composite Materials and Structures Center, former graduate student Ahmad Razvan, and Mehran Elahi, a doctoral candidate in engineering science and mechanics.

* A means of synthesis of cyclitols from substituted arene diols, developed by chemistry professor Tomas Hudlicky.

* Methane oxidative coupling, developed by former chemical engineering faculty member Donald van der Vaart.

* Non-symmetrical inductive sensors used in proximity sensing devices, developed by former graduate student Kofi-D. Anim-Appiah, who is now at Eaton Corp., electrical engineering faculty member Sedki Riad, and former faculty member Shinzo Onishi. The sensors are used in automated industrial applications and are an essential part of robotics. The Virginia Tech invention doubles the range of proximity sensors. It has been licensed to Eaton Corp. and is now in production.

* a method of reducing flow metastability in an ejector nozzle, developed by mechanical engineering faculty member Alan A. Kornhauser and graduate student Peter Menegay.

"The significant number of students involved in the creation and development of these patented technologies is noteworthy," says Len Peters, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School. "It reflects the close interaction of research and teaching at Virginia Tech. The learning experience of helping in the creation of new knowledge makes these students better prepared and more valuable in their future career endeavors and more completely fulfills the educational mission of the university."