UCSD's Von Liebig Center Awards Funding to Seven Projects to Commercialize Faculty Research

Rick LeFaivre
Rick LeFaivre
Executive Director

San Diego, January 22, 2003 -- The William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement has awarded $300,000 and equipment to seven projects led by faculty at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering. The projects include inventions to improve video images on DVD players; software to glean information from stock-market message boards on the Internet; a new way to make artificial cartilage that mimics the real thing; and a simulator to teach medical personnel how to intubate a patient's airway via laryngoscopy. (details below).

This is the second round of grants since the Center was set up in September 2001 to foster entrepreneurism education on the campus and provide funding to internal technology projects that have strong commercial potential.

Twenty proposals were submitted in response to the second solicitation run by the von Liebig Center. "This solicitation was extremely successful," said Rick LeFaivre, Executive Director of the Center. "All of the applications were of high quality, and we were pleased to be able to provide gap funding to another seven outstanding projects, on top of the six funded last year." Applicants went through a rigorous screening mechanism and their proposals were reviewed by an external committee of industry experts in the various disciplines. Added von Liebig Managing Director Abi Barrow: "The von Liebig Center is committed to working with all applicants through our business consultants and staff to develop commercialization strategies for their technologies. We will also do everything we can to help them secure other types of funding for their projects."

Of the seven grants, four went to faculty or researchers based in the Jacobs School's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) department, and one each to professors in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Bioengineering (BIO), and Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). For more information on the von Liebig Center, visit http://www.vonliebig.ucsd.edu. Staffers are available to discuss projects and can be reached at (858) 822-5960 or email vlassist@soe.ucsd.edu.


Robert Sah, Professor
"Efficacy of Stratified Cartilage Tissue for Treating Articular Defects"

The goal of Professor Sah's project is to engineer cartilaginous tissue in novel and effective ways for joint repair and replacement. Current therapies are limited by lack of donor tissue and a lack of prosthesis durability for active patients, and the current generation of engineered cartilage. Sah has already invented Methods to Engineer Stratified Cartilage Tissue (disclosed in 2001 and with a patent application in progress), which demonstrated the ability to tailor cartilage to have cells at a surface producing SZP (Superficial Zone Protein), a molecule critical for lubrication. In this project, Sah and his team will conduct high-risk in vivo experiments in an attempt to establish key scientific concepts and experimental models, relating the presence of SZP to maintenance of cartilage health, and conversely, the loss of SZP to joint deterioration. If successful in showing the association between loss of SZP and the failure for repair, the value of the earlier invention will increase greatly, because it will be established that having SZP-producing cells at a surface will most resemble normal cartilage. Also, an in vivo model would be established for future studies that will directly test the therapeutic efficacy of SZP-based therapies and pave the way for future clinical trials.


Charles Elkan, Associate Professor
"Overcoming Information Overload by Measuring Message Quality Automatically"

Professor Elkan is developing software to measure the quality of messages and documents automatically, and to enable a web server to give faster responses to high-priority users. The program, which uses SQL queries only and caches common queries, can assess documents in milliseconds, and developers say the technology "scales easily to millions of documents and millions of users." The von Liebig funding will help Elkan commercialize the first application based on the technology to financial message boards. Elkan, an expert in artificial intelligence, expects to offer an exclusive license to major service providers including MSN, AOL, and Yahoo, but also sees potential for licensing the technology to other companies. The technology is covered by a full patent application that has already been filed.


Truong Nguyen, Professor
"Low-Cost De-Interlacing Technique for Progressive-Scan Video Player"

Professor Nguyen's research team has invented a very efficient, low-cost algorithm for motion estimation that produces much improved video quality in today's interlaced television receptionespecially on large screens, where the artifacts due to interlacing are more pronounced. This invention would be a clear improvement on the very simple de-interlacing techniques now built into all commercial DVD players which do not produce high-quality video on big-screen TV sets. The choice of the present interlaced television system arose from numerous compromises between the visual quality of the displayed image, the bandwidth required for the transmission, the technical feasibility of the fundamental components, the cost price of the receiving set and other economic considerations. Unfortunately, interlacing produces some disturbing visual artifacts like interline flicker, line crawling and pairing. In the recent few years with the advent of big screen televisions and DVD technology, the dream to realize the movie viewing experience at home has become a reality. The artifacts due to interlacing are more pronounced when viewed on large screens. The development of the line doublers and finally the progressive scan DVD player is a direct consequence of this quest for much improved quality video. Nguyen's project will further optimize the technique to minimize the computational cost and implement the algorithm on Texas Instruments and VHDL chipsets to accurately measure its computational cost and the chip size needed for hardware implementation. This technique could eventually improve all DVD players, a market of 25 million sold in the United States alone in 2002and growing at 50% a year.


Vitali Nesterenko, Professor
"Improved Method of Semiconductor Wafer Fusion"

The main goal of Professor Nesterenko's project is the development of a process based on hot isostatic pressing with uniform bonding over the size of wafers - with diameter about 50 mm on first stage and with 6 inch diameter on the last stage, with minimal wrapping of wafers and without intermediate layers. This will determine the lowest level of temperature exposure and optimize P-T-time bonding window. The participants in this project successfully demonstrated feasibility of the process on small-scale wafers and filed UCSD disclosure. Significant efforts are needed to advance this approach toward large-scale bonding. Efforts to model residual stresses in bonded wafers with a goal to reduce their level, to test bonding quality based on resonance ultrasound spectroscopy, and to use a variety of prebonding techniques are also planned.

Joanna McKittrick, Professor
"Development of a Solid-State Lamp"

Solid-state lighting will eventually replace conventional lighting, such as incandescence and fluorescence. The devices are flat and do not require a vacuum (incandescent) or a pressurized gas (fluorescent) to operate. They are more energy efficient, and have low maintenance and longer lifetimes than conventional bulbs. Professor McKittrick (in collaboration with Cree, Inc. and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory), will build a compact solid-state white-light source that can be used for solid-state lighting and other general illumination applications. The device to be demonstrated will lead to a high-performance, white-emitting light emitting diode (LED). The device will use several phosphors to simultaneously generate different colors that combined (based on the additive principle of color theory) will produce white light and/or simply using the single-phase composition approach. McKittrick and her team at UCSD have recently developed mixtures of three compositions (of red, green and blue phosphors), as well as single-phase white-emitting phosphors. The blends and compositions can be activated efficiently with gallium-nitride (GaN) radiation.

Jan Talbot, Professor
"Testing of Supported Zeolite Membranes Produced by Electrophoretic Deposition"

Supported zeolite membranes are used in gas separation and pervaporation. Existing processes are not reproducible and zeolite films are prone to cracking or formation of macropores which short-circuit permeation through the zeolite pores. Professor Talbot and her team have developed an easy and reproducible procedure by electrophoretic deposition (EPD) to produce uniform and homogeneous zeolite films on porous metallic supports. These supports are for potential use in membrane separation processes. This project will test the supported membranes produced by EPD for gas separations by collaboration with a company or university that have gas separation membrane testing equipment. Typically, supported zeolite membranes have been used to separate hydrogen from nitrogen, oxygen from nitrogen, and carbon dioxide from nitrogen. Existing test equipment will be modified to test these membranes for gas separation, and the testing will allow Talbot to assess the viability of the EPD process as a means to produce supported zeolite membranes for gas separation.

Nathan Delson, Researcher; Mike Bailey, Professor
School of Medicine Collaborators: Randolph Hastings, Associate Professor; Matthew Weinger, Professor
"Advanced Medical Training Simulator Based on Operating Room Data"
Equipment Grant

The goal of this project is harness virtual reality, augmented reality, and computer-controlled mannequins to train personnel in medical proceduresthus eliminating the current training method of practicing those skills on real patients. One of the key challenges of developing accurate simulations is the current lack of accurate physical data required to model the procedure. The approach of this study is to instrument medical tools used in the operating room, in order to measure the medical skill and patient properties necessary for a realistic simulator. The medical procedure to be addressed with von Liebig equipment grant is airway intubation via laryngoscopy. The simulator will be programmable to mimic patient anatomy observed during our study, and cues from expert motions will be accessible to the trainee to assist and evaluate the trainee. The physical properties of the simulator will be based on the stiffness properties acquired from the force and motion data from the instrumented laryngoscope. This prototype will illustrate a new method for medical simulator development, with potential applications in other medical procedures.

Doug Ramsey, dramsey@ucsd.edu , 858-822-5825