A Brief Update of Innovation Network Faculty

The Physical Sciences Division Innovation Network received important assistance from our alumni, and continues to look for additional input on new ideas for applications and commercialization, such as those highlighted below. For more information, please contact the Innovation Network at psdconnects.in@uchicago.edu.

Physics professor Henry Frisch continues his work on photodetectors with commercial partner, Incom, Inc. The goal is to develop inexpensive imaging devices capable of a time resolution of 1 picosecond, the time it takes light to travel one-tenth of an inch, and the ability to resolve the position of each photon to better than a few tenths of an inch in each lateral direction. The system is modular, and is capable of covering areas measured in many square-meters.  In order to exploit this unprecedented time resolution, professor Frisch’s lab has developed inexpensive low-power electronic systems capable of sampling thousands of analog signals at 15 Gigasamples per second. With collaborators from Cornell, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and RMD Corporation, his lab is also developing high quantum efficiency photocathodes and cathode production techniques. Dr. Frisch has funding from the DOE to support production of the photodetectors for distribution to early adopters for scientific and commercial use. The IN has helped obtain funding to support graduate student research on PET applications for the photodetectors. In addition to patents on the photodetectors, a provisional patent application has been filed covering the use for PET imaging and novel PET system designs. Incom, Inc. was recently featured in Worcester Business Journal.

Heinrich Jaeger, professor in Physics, continues his research on granular materials, with a focus on “jamming”, the transition from liquid-like to solid-like behavior in these materials. His work with robotics developers to create a soft gripper has garnered national press. Students at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, as part of a graduate course in marketing, explored a variety of commercial opportunities, notably the embedding of Professor Jaeger’s evolutionary algorithms and simulations in software systems supporting 3-D printers or CAD systems. They also explored potential for use with fracking techniques and the construction of (temporary) water levees. Professor Jaeger recently presented his work at the Polsky Center Collaboratorium.

Additional applications continue to be of interest to Chemistry professor Dmitri Talapin, whose research team has demonstrated how semiconductors can be soldered and still deliver excellent electronic performance. We are especially interested in identifying existing or newly formed organizations that could work with Dr. Talapin’s students on commercial applications of the new materials created in the laboratory.   

Chemistry professor Yamuna Krishnan, whose research was highlighted in our Fall 2015 eNewsletter, was pleased to be introduced to interested commercial partners. She and her research group are inventing new tools to revolutionize the way we study cells by fashioning tiny, quantitative sensing devices that can be introduced into living systems. At its Fall meeting in Chicago, the IN team worked with Dr. Krishnan, as well as with new faculty members Bryan Dickinson and Raymond Moellering, to understand their partnering interests. Dr. Dickinson works on molecular recording devices that can encode specific activities of mammalian cells, and Dr. Moellering focuses on small molecule imaging reagents that can enable dramatically improved imaging of tumors. 

Computer Science professor Ridgway Scott is creating a business around the FEnICS project (Computational Modeling Initiative). We are pleased to report that a number of you, both business and software professionals, contacted Professor Scott with your interest in assisting. He has informed us that the first FeNICS course will be held in late June in the Chicago area. He has also confirmed the support of the key inventors of FEnICS for this new venture, and received encouraging help in targeting an initial market for FEnICS that differentiates it from its closest competitor.