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VTIP to recognize faculty, staff members, students for patents

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 30 - May 1, 1997

Virginia Tech researchers earned 25 patents during 1996. At a luncheon May 5, Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties (VTIP) Inc. will recognize faculty and staff members and students for their work.

Areas related to electronics and materials received the most patents, with faculty members and students in the Virginia Power Electronics Center (VPEC) and the Center for Advanced Ceramic Materials receiving three each. These patents are being marketed by Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology.

In the power electronics center, patents were issued for:

1) A zero-current-transition (ZCT) switching technique that can dramatically reduce switching losses associated with power semiconductor devices. The researchers are Guichao C. Hua, former graduate student and research scientist now with Virginia Power Technologies Inc. of Blacksburg, and Fred C. Lee, VPEC director.

2) Damped EMI input filter power factor correction circuits, the work of Vlatko Vlatkovic, former graduate student currently employed at the GE Corporate R&D Center in Schenectady, N.Y., Lee, and Dusan Borojevic, associate professor in EE.

3) A zero-voltage-transition three-phase PWM (pulse-width-modulated) voltage link converter, developed by Lee and Hengchun Mao, former graduate student now employed at Lucent Technologies in Mesquite, Texas

Some materials research also serves the electronics industries. The rapidly growing microelectronic industry places severe demands on deposition and etching of films to create products. The etching processes must provide uniformity, be highly selectivity, and be environmentally benign. So far, the industry is using etch gases which contribute to the ozone depletion and global warming. Patents have been issued to researchers at the Center for Advanced Ceramic Materials for:

1) Environmentally benign etch processes that satisfy the requirements of advanced device processing (Metalorganic chemical vapor deposition of layered structure oxides, by Seshu B. Desu, center director; Wei Tao, graduate student; Chien-Hsiung Peng of Ceram Inc.; Tingkai Li, research associate; and Youngfei Zhu, visiting professor);

2) The first state-of-the-art deposition processes for complex materials such as layered structure oxides (Reactive ion etching of lead zirconate titanate and ruthenium oxide thin films, by Desu; Wei Pan, graduate assistant; and Dilip P. Vijay, student); and

3) Simplified processing of multilayers required for processing advanced memories (Method of forming multilayered electrodes for ferroelectric devices consisting of conductive layers and interlayers formed by chemical reaction, by Desu; In K. Yoo, research scientist; and students Chi K. Kwok and Vijay).

Other researchers also received patents for materials discoveries.

Jim McGrath, director of the NSF Science and Technology Center, and former graduate student Gerald W. Meyer received a patent for a high-temperature curing agent for adhesive materials used in the high-speed civil transport aircraft.

Chemistry professor Larry Taylor and colleagues received two patents for electrically conducting polyimide films. "A need exists in the aerospace industry for flexible, electrically conductive polymeric films and coatings that are semi-conducting for use on large space structures to provide relief from space-charging, and on advanced aircraft to provide for lightning strike resistance, and other applications," Taylor said.

A second patent--by chemistry faculty member James Rancourt, NASA researchers Diane M. Stoakley, Maggie L. Caplan, and St. Clair, and Taylor--is for polyimide films and coatings useful to the electronics industry, where the combination of conductivity, mechanical strength, and thermal stability are required.

In another patent related to films, visiting scholar Tawei Sun, materials science and engineering staff member Nancy R. Brown, department head Jesse Brown, and graduate student Min Kang developed a thin film material to coat non-oxide ceramics, providing improved corrosion resistance at high temperatures.

Woflgang Glasser, associate dean of wood science and forest products, and former graduate students Gamini Samaranayake and James E. Sealey II received a patent for cellulose derivatives with a low degree of substitution, which protects a composite material's biodegradability. Samaranayake was a chemistry graduate working with Glasser as a post-doctoral student.

Staff members and students in chemical engineering received a patent for a method of producing foamed polymer materials. Inventors are former graduate student Donald K. Brandom, former research associate Jose P. DeSouza, and faculty members Donald Baird and Garth L. Wilkes.

In addition to electronics and materials, a third area of research producing patents is biological sciences.

William Velander, associate professor of chemical engineering, and colleagues received two patents:

1) Raymond Page, Ph.D. graduate in chemical engineering; Velander, lead scientist for the transgenic livestock research group at Virginia Tech; and the late John L. Johnson, professor of anaerobic microbiology, received a patent for the chemical packaging of DNA by molecules called polyelectrolytes prior to microinjection, which allows injection directly into the cytoplasm of a cell--"a great simplification when making transgenic animals." This work was the product of Page's Ph.D. thesis.

2) A patent for expression of human protein C in the milk of transgenic animals was issued to William N. Drohan, director of plasma derivatives at of the American Red Cross; Tracy Wilkins, director of the Fralin biotechnology center; Velander, principal investigator of NSF and American Red Cross grants for the isolation of Protein C from human plasma, and Johnson. The Departments of Animal and Poultry Science and Dairy Science are key collaborations with this ongoing project, says Velander.

Other life-sciences patents:

Heather Wren, formerly with Virginia Tech's entomology department, received a patent for compositions and methods for controlling pest insects. The first application is for control of cockroaches and uses natural components that are safe for humans but that interfere with cockroach metabolism and reproduction. It will be further developed to target termites and ants.

M. Marian Ijzerman, a Ph.D. graduate, and faculty members Charles Hagedorn of crop and soil environmental sciences, and Joe Falkinham of biology received a patent for a rapid method of detecting viral contamination in water.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researchers led by M.A. Saghai Maroof in partnership with Garst Seed Company of Iowa received a patent for gray leaf-spot-resistant corn and the process for producing it. Saghai Maroof discovered how to identify DNA that confer disease-resistance, which were then transferred to productive varieties and tested at the Whitethorne farm. Co-inventors on the patent are George K. Rufener II and Ronald Mowers of Garst, Erik L. Stromberg of Virginia Tech, and Albert J. Balducchi of Garst.

James C. Keith, former faculty member in the college of veterinary medicine, now with Genetics Institute Inc., received two patents for methods of diagnosing and treating the risk of hypertension during pregnancy.

Former chemistry professor Tomas Hudlicky received two patents for synthesis of sphingosines.

In other patents:

Two new patents were awarded to researchers at the Center for Coal and Minerals Processing (CCMP). Gerald H. Luttrell, associate professor, and Roe-Hoan Yoon, center director, received a patent for an apparatus for improved ash and sulfur rejection from coal. Yoon and Luttrell also received a patent for a process and apparatus for dewatering fine particulate materials, which will greatly reduce the overall costs of cleaning fine coal using the inventions made at CCMP.

William Devenport, associate professor of aerospace and ocean engineering, received a patent for a diode array velocimeter, which is a new device for measuring the speed of moving liquids or gases.

Electrical engineering professor Warren Stutzman and former graduate student Randall Nealy received a patent for a safer antenna for hand-held radios and telephones. The patented antenna does not release radiation in the direction of the user's head.