Each year, the U.S. alone generates more than 21 billion barrels (approximately 900 billion gallons) of produced water from oil and gas extraction, including hydraulic fracturing. To treat this water before disposal or reuse, the industry depends on filtration and separation technologies. Typically, dispersed particles or droplets are removed from a host liquid using a series of complex techniques. These techniques are energy—intensive and may require the addition of chemicals to work. They have also proven inefficient at removing the tiniest oil droplets and contaminants. With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), FloDesign Sonics, a small business based in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, has developed a new, efficient separation technology that can help clean produced water. The company's design uses acoustic waves to continuously capture and separate substances from water or other liquids without using filters or chemicals. FloDesign Sonics demonstrated their separation technology at the White House Water Summit March 22. At the heart of FloDesign Sonics' system is a method called acoustophoresis, in which droplets or particles within a liquid can be manipulated with a special acoustic wave pattern. The new system uses a pattern of ultrasonic waves in the megahertz range. The wave pattern exerts acoustic forces that bind substances dispersed in the liquid into clusters. Depending on their relative density compared to the liquid, these larger clusters either settle to the bottom or rise to the surface, where they can be separated easily. "Acoustophoresis has been used primarily in microfluidics and other micro-scale systems," explained Jason Dionne, co-founder and senior engineer of FloDesign Sonics. "When the U.S. Army was looking for a technology for rapid detection of anthrax spores in large bodies of water, we got the idea to develop an acoustic separation technology that works at the macroscale." FloDesign Sonics' patented system, called Acoustic Wave Separation (AWS), was designed to treat produced water from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations that extract natural gas. The amount of produced water generated at a fracking site changes over the lifetime of the well and depends on the geologic formation, but can reach 100,000 gallons per day. "It's challenging for current technologies to remove particles smaller than 20 microns without the addition of chemicals," Dionne said. "AWS separates particulates, oil droplets, sand and bacteria as small as 1 micron." Produced water treated with the AWS system meets or exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for safe discharge. "With NSF funding, we have scaled up our technology to an industrially relevant scale," Dionne said. "We now have a 7,000 -gallon per day prototype that we are ready to pilot with a partner. The ultimate goal for our technology within the oil and gas industry is to build a system capable of processing 100,000 gallons per day. Dionne said that compared to current methods for treating produced water, the AWS system would reduce energy and chemical usage by up to 75 percent. FloDesign Sonics' proprietary technology has potential for separations in many sectors beyond oil and gas. One sector showing special promise is life science. Not only is the technique gentle on living cells, which can be damaged when separated by traditional methods, it also is able to separate particles of any size, overcoming a limitation of current filtration techniques. The company can picture the technology being used one day for cleaning and transfusing a patient's own blood during surgery. In the nearer term, acoustic wave separation may be used to recover biological products from mammalian cells, which requires a purification process with high yield, product consistency and reproducibility. In April 2016, FloDesign Sonics will introduce its first product, a system that harvests therapeutic proteins and antibodies for biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Later in 2016, the company will introduce a second product, designed for continuous production of proteins from mammalian cell cultures. The company is currently investigating applications in the growing field of cell and gene therapies. Acoustic wave separation technology was developed with $1.6 million in NSF funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. FloDesign Sonics currently holds nine patents and has raised more than $25 million of private sector funding. The company has grown from one employee in 2012 to 28 full-time employees today. "FloDesign Sonics' research has led to an elegant and efficient method to accomplish difficult separations, which could impact a broad spectrum of manufacturing and production processes," said Prakash Balan, a program director for the NSF SBIR program. "NSF invests in small businesses like FloDesign Sonics to help promising high-tech concepts make it to the marketplace." Explore further: Water use for fracking oil resembles use for conventional production
The new kit, called Ziro, was developed in research led by Karthik Ramani, the Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-founder and chief scientist of the company ZeroUI, with locations at the Purdue Research Park and in San Jose, California. Ziro is the first commercial application of ZeroUI's gesture-based Natural User Interface technology platform. Sensors in a "smart glove" communicate with wireless motorized modules, enabling users to direct the robotic creations with the lift of a finger or flick of a wrist in real-time. (Ziro is pronounced ZYE - rhymes with eye-row). Research funding was provided as part of the NSF grant to both the university as well as through the Small Business Innovation Research program, designed to move innovations from discovery to commercialization. The NSF is nurturing a national innovation ecosystem through development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. "An innovation ecosystem consists of many integrated components, including academic research, the business and investor community, industry and the commercial marketplace," Ramani said. "The NSF funding was critical to starting and nurturing the work that led to this product and resulted in a success story." Ramani has been teaching a popular toy design class at Purdue for 18 years, refining ways to make toys both educational and playful. "Ziro is a way for students to learn about physics and engineering while still having fun," Ramani said. "They encounter ideas around physics as they are engaging in the design work and then they are more receptive when they get a mathematical formula that describes what it is that they've just seen." The new kit was recently showcased during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it was named a "Best at CES 2016 Finalist" in the best maker-friendly technology category by Engadget, an online magazine that promotes new and promising technologies to the public. "The best validation for a new concept is how well it is accepted by the business community," Ramani said. "Ziro passed the acid test of CES with flying colors." The system originally was called HandiMate and was later commercialized as Ziro. It appeals equally to both genders, representing an unbiased tool for encouraging both girls and boys to learn about science and engineering through robotic puppetry and building. Ziro uses motorized "joint modules" equipped with wireless communicators and micro-controllers. Children create robots by using Velcro strips to attach the modules to any number of everyday materials and objects such as cardboard, metal cans and foam board, a departure from conventional kits that contain primarily prefabricated mechanical and structural pieces that children fit together. "Anytime you have mostly prefabricated building blocks that come together in a certain number of combinations you are limited in what you can do, and research shows you are not going to attract the interest of girls with the vast majority of these kits," Ramani said. "The thing about Ziro that is more open is that you can use virtually any material and you are not limited to these prefabricated pieces." Information about the system was reported in a paper presented last year during the Interaction Design and Children conference. "The important point here is that you are not just decorating a robot with craft materials," said Kylie Peppler, a co-author of the paper and an associate professor of learning sciences at Indiana University. "The crafting actually becomes part of the robot design and construction." Some toy-building kits on the market target girls through product packaging and decorative features, but they still rely primarily on prefabricated pieces. This "pink-wrapping" approach fails to address the fundamental reasons that traditional building kits don't appeal to girls, Peppler said. "What we are finding in our research is that kits intended for girls actually appeal more to boys," she said. "It is pink wrapping traditional boy toys instead of fundamentally changing the toolkit to integrate crafting or other girl-friendly practices that invite participation. The cool thing about HandiMate is that the kids are putting it right in the center. So it's not too boy and its not too girl, and that is really rare." The research involved 32 children ages 6-15. Of the group, 15 were girls. The children performed "gender-sorting" tasks where they rated several commercial kits and assessed whether they would appeal more to boys or girls. The researchers also performed statistical tests to evaluate HandiMate and other kits, pinpointing gender-oriented preferences among the children. "We wanted to see for the first time how kids perceived these kits," Peppler said. "A lot of times we ask adults whether they would buy this for their child, but we don't actually ask the kids whether they would want to play with it even if it were purchased. We were really trying to understand this from the perspective of the kid." The materials include cardboard that can be cut and crafted as well as robotics pieces that can be computer programmed. "What children are doing with the glove component is to treat it like a puppet and to think about the context in which these robots are then going to be interacting," said Ramani, director of Purdue's C Design Lab. "Not only is the glove controller amenable to puppeteering and storytelling, but it's also sort of a natural extension of your body. It's a lot more natural to operate than conventional joystick controllers." Another natural element is the crafting itself. "Crafting is an inherent activity that children are involved with from a very young age, so it only makes sense to integrate craft-oriented functions in a kit," said graduate student Ansh Verma. HandiMate dovetails with goals identified in Next Generation Science Standards, based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, Ramani said. "These Next Generation Science Standards contain a whole appendix on engineering design, and that's the first time I have seen such a big emphasis on design for teaching science," he said. Explore further: 'Makers' 3-D print shapes created using new design tool, bare hands
The Rice lab of Professor Matteo Pasquali has developed a coating that could replace the tin-coated copper braid that transmits the signal and shields the cable from electromagnetic interference. The metal braid is the heaviest component in modern coaxial data cables. The research appears this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. Replacing the outer conductor with Rice's flexible, high-performance coating would benefit airplanes and spacecraft, in which the weight and strength of data-carrying cables are significant factors in performance. Rice research scientist Francesca Mirri, lead author of the paper, made three versions of the new cable by varying the carbon-nanotube thickness of the coating. She found that the thickest, about 90 microns - approximately the width of the average human hair - met military-grade standards for shielding and was also the most robust; it handled 10,000 bending cycles with no detrimental effect on the cable performance. "Current coaxial cables have to use a thick metal braid to meet the mechanical requirements and appropriate conductance," Mirri said. "Our cable meets military standards, but we're able to supply the strength and flexibility without the bulk." Coaxial cables consist of four elements: a conductive copper core, an electrically insulating polymer sheath, an outer conductor and a polymer jacket. The Rice lab replaced only the outer conductor by coating sheathed cores with a solution of carbon nanotubes in chlorosulfonic acid. Compared with earlier attempts to use carbon nanotubes in cables, this method yields a more uniform conductor and has higher throughput, Pasquali said. "This is one of the few cases where you can have your cake and eat it, too," he said. "We obtained better processing and improved performance." Replacing the braided metal conductor with the nanotube coating eliminated 97 percent of the component's mass, Mirri said. She said the lab is working on a method to scale up production. The lab is drawing on its experience in producing high-performance nanotube-based fibers. "It's a very similar process," Mirri said. "We just need to substitute the exit of the fiber extrusion setup with a wire-coating die. These are high-throughput processes currently used in the polymer industry to make a lot of commercial products. The Air Force seems very interested in this technology, and we are currently working on a Small Business Innovation Research project with the Air Force Research Laboratory to see how far we can take it." Explore further: Nanocables light way to the future: Researchers power line-voltage light bulb with nanotube wire More information: Francesca Mirri et al. Lightweight, flexible, high-performance carbon nanotube cables made by scalable flow coating, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b11600
With help from UConn's National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program, Accelerate UConn, marine geochemist Penny Vlahos and graduate student Joe Warren are now well on their way to commercializing their technology. Access to clean water is a major concern for nations around the globe. The new device can measure pollution in oceans, lakes, and rivers, and even in the home. "I was frustrated that we weren't measuring contaminants as often or as well as we should, just because it was too labor-intensive and costly," says Vlahos. "This device lets us test more bodies of water quickly, easily, and inexpensively, and yields results that better reflect the overall situation. The potential environmental impact is huge." Currently, if the quality of a body of water needs testing, a large sample is collected – between five and 20 liters of water – and is then transported to a lab for analysis. This process, known as "grab sampling," is labor-intensive and can be prohibitively expensive. As a result, small-scale testing by citizens who want to measure contaminants in a local stream or in their private wells isn't feasible. In contrast, Vlahos says her technology is so easy a child could do it. In fact, the device doesn't require collecting a water sample at all, because it uses a process called "passive sampling." The small, ecofriendly sampling device is placed directly into the body of water being tested, where it stays for a few hours and is then removed. Once back in the lab, it takes a little over two hours to conduct a full analysis of the water's target contaminant levels. Another important feature of the new technology is that it provides continuous sampling over time, which isn't possible with grab sampling. Since the device remains in the water, it gives a more representative picture of an aquatic environment's overall health, instead of the limited snapshot from grab sampling. Because of their low cost, a greater number of the semi-disposable passive samplers can be simultaneously deployed over a larger area to yield more comprehensive and informative data. The device currently measures a host of organic contaminants, such as industrial chemicals like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, synthetic chemicals that mimic hormones like estrogen, and even munition compounds from unexploded weapons that find their way into bodies of water. Vlahos has already tested the technology in a variety of aquatic and sedimentary environments, both nationally and internationally. Although Vlahos was confident in her technology's ability to improve on standard industry practices, she wasn't sure how to commercialize it or who the target customer would be. So she and Warren turned to Accelerate UConn, a program that helps entrepreneurial faculty and students at all UConn campuses validate their technology business ideas. The program was launched in May 2015, and is jointly operated by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI), housed in the School of Business. "Many UConn innovations have valuable, real-world applications, but our faculty and students need the right tools to successfully commercialize them," says Jeff Seemann, UConn vice president for research. "Accelerate UConn provides those tools, and helps promising technologies take those critical first steps towards the market, where they can benefit the state's citizens and economy." Warren, who has long aspired to be an entrepreneur, acted as the team's 'entrepreneurial lead.' He was responsible for attending weekly webinars, making presentations, and conducting interviews with potential customers to validate the researchers' assumptions about their technology and the market. He says he could relate to the program's Lean Launchpad methodology because of his background in science. "Even though commercializing a technology was totally new to me, the framework they provided was familiar," says Warren. "By running small iterations of 'experiments' on products or services with potential customers, you can really shape your business before you have to fully launch, and do a lot of the learning before you spend lots of time and money." The knowledge that participants gain from completing the Accelerate UConn program can serve as a stepping stone for additional funding through internal sources, like the UConn SPARK Technology Commercialization Fund, as well as external sources like federal Small Business Innovation Research grants. Warren recently won a $15,000 Summer Fellowship offered by CCEI, where he and Vlahos were able to build upon the progress they had made in Accelerate UConn. As a result, he was also selected to compete for an additional $15,000 provided through the Wolff New Venture Competition this September. Timothy B. Folta, UConn professor of business and CCEI faculty director, says entrepreneurs like Vlahos and Warren gain a new outlook on their products from participating in Accelerate UConn, and this can be important for their success as entrepreneurs. "One of the most potent criticisms of university technology commercialization is that technologists do not have a good understanding about whether customers really want their technology, because they are enamored with it," Folta says. "Accelerate UConn aims to correct this bias." Vlahos and Warren are not slowing down. They are actively seeking additional internal and external funding, are continuing to develop new applications for their device, and plan to conduct more pilot tests on the technology in the coming months. To date, approximately 20 teams have successfully completed the Accelerate UConn program. Applications are currently being accepted for the Fall 2016 cycle, which begins in October. The deadline is Sept. 9. For more information and to access the application, visit www.accelerate.uconn.edu. Explore further: Seeing below the skin: Advanced tools to diagnose cancer
News Article | April 23, 2015
MENLO PARK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), a later-stage venture capital and growth equity firm, today announced IVP XV, a $1.4 billion fund. This is the largest fund raised in the firm’s 35-year history and brings cumulative committed capital to $5.4 billion. The fund was significantly oversubscribed, with IVP’s existing Limited Partners contributing the vast majority of the fund. The fund’s General Partners are Todd Chaffee, Somesh Dash, Steve Harrick, Eric Liaw, Jules Maltz, Sandy Miller, and Dennis Phelps. After 26 years as a General Partner at IVP, Norm Fogelsong will serve the new fund as an Advisory Partner. Collectively, the Partners have more than 150 years of venture capital and operating experience. “I have invested with the IVP team for over a decade now and they consistently deliver exceptional performance for us,” said Limited Partner Rick Hayes of Jasper Ridge Partners. “I continue to be impressed by the way this multi-generational team maintains their industry leadership position throughout investment cycles.” IVP partners with talented entrepreneurs to finance rapidly growing technology and media companies that are addressing large market opportunities. Since its inception in 1980, IVP has invested in over 300 companies and 101 of those have gone public. IVP has backed many well known consumer companies such as HomeAway, Kayak, LegalZoom, LifeLock, Netflix, Prosper, Shazam, Snapchat, SoundCloud, Supercell, The Honest Company, and Twitter. Successful enterprise investments include AppDynamics, ArcSight, ComScore, Datalogix, Domo, Dropbox, Fleetmatics, Marketo, MySQL, Omniture, OnDeck, Pure Storage, Slack, and Zenefits. With IVP XV, the firm will continue to invest in both the consumer and enterprise sectors throughout the United States. “IVP has invested in both of my companies and I have personally invested in IVP’s two most recent funds,” said Josh James, CEO of Domo. “The IVP team is absolutely one of the best in the business. Their partners are smart, they ask great questions, and they have been incredibly helpful to us over the years. I consider them a trusted resource and a great partner.“ With the new fund, IVP plans to invest $10 to $100 million per company in 12 to 15 businesses each year. The firm believes that this highly selective approach is an essential driver of fund performance. Given its focused expertise in later-stage investing, IVP offers entrepreneurs many years of experience in helping companies recruit exceptional executives, scale operations, refine business strategies, and expand internationally. For more information about IVP XV, read our blog post: http://www.ivp.com/news/press-release/announcing-ivp-xv With $5.4 billion of committed capital, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) is one of the premier later-stage venture capital and growth equity firms in the United States. Founded in 1980, IVP has invested in over 300 companies and 101 have gone public. IVP is one of the top-performing firms in the industry and has a 34-year IRR of 43.2%. IVP specializes in venture growth investments, industry rollups, founder liquidity transactions, and select public market investments. IVP investments include such notable companies as AppDynamics, ArcSight (HPQ), Buddy Media (CRM), ComScore, Datalogix (ORCL), Domo, Dropbox, Dropcam (GOOG), Fleetmatics (FLTX), HomeAway (AWAY), Kayak (PCLN), LegalZoom, LifeLock (LOCK), Marketo (MKTO), MySQL (ORCL), Netflix (NFLX), Omniture (ADBE), OnDeck (ONDK), Prosper, Pure Storage, RetailMeNot (SALE), Shazam, Slack, Snapchat, SoundCloud, Supercell, Synchronoss (SNCR), The Honest Company, Twitter (TWTR), Zenefits, and Zynga (ZNGA). For more information, visit http://www.ivp.com or follow IVP on Twitter: @ivp.