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Michigan State’s Top Innovators Honored

From clear solar cells (to be used as windows on cars, buildings and more) to agricultural drones to beer brewed with craft-roasted Michigan chestnuts, Michigan State University students and faculty recently showcased their inventions and start-up ideas at the 2015 Michigan State University Innovation Celebration.

Smucker's water retention sheet

Smucker’s water retention sheet

Water Retention for Crops

Alvin Smucker (top, left), professor of Soil Biophysics in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, was named Innovator of the Year. Smucker’s research focuses on water retention of soils, particularly the application of subsurface water retention technologies (SWRT).

Drawing on decades of research on plant root systems, Smucker has earned three patents to-date. His innovative method of improving water retention, especially for sandy soils in arid regions, reduces irrigation demands, and boosts the efficacy of traditional agricultural practices.

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Clear Solar Concentrators

One of two 2015 Innovation of the Year awards was given to Richard Lunt (top, center), assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science, for his development of transparent photovoltaics.

His transparent solar concentrators can be installed on nearly any transparent surface to discretely harvest solar energy, without affecting the incoming light .

Lunt's solar concentrator

Lunt’s solar concentrator

While former attempts at transparent photovoltaics colored or dimmed the light that passed through them, Lunt’s solar concentrators have small organic molecules that can be tuned to absorb only non-visible wavelengths, allowing natural, visible light to pass through. Solar power is converted to electricity by thin photovoltaics strips. The technology is a flexible and inconspicuous means of harvesting solar energy that can be integrated onto building windows and mobile electronic displays.

Bruening's membrane

Bruening’s membrane

Membranes for Protein Biotherapeutics

The second 2015 MSU Innovation of the Year Award was given to Merlin Bruening (top, right), professor in the Department of Chemistry.

Bruening has devised a way of efficiently generating a high density of functionalized membranes at controlled pH. The membrane generation process is easily implemented, scalable, inexpensive, and yields membranes with markedly improved surface areas. Increased surface area corresponds directly with an improved overall protein binding capacity of the membrane, making it a powerful tool for academic research and industry for the study and isolation of protein biotherapeutics.

The MSU Innovation Center combines innovation, technology transfer, start-up support, and a portfolio of dedicated business and community partnerships to bring cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace. Composed of MSU Technologies, Business-CONNECT and Spartan Innovations, the MSU Innovation Center stewards ideas from concept to product, launching more than 120 discoveries into patented products and start-up businesses annually. Learn more at http://innovationcenter.msu.edu.

– Contact: Amber Shinn Marketing Director | MSU Innovation Center 517.884.0718 | shinnamb@msu.edu

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