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Oregon State Universityis putting innovations to work solving real-world problems, making new and better products and improving processes. Faculty researchers are ready to work with industry partners and entrepreneurs to commercialize their discoveries through licensing and spinoff companies.
Producing more powerful electronics with less energy and waste
The next generation of semiconductor plants will produce more powerful electronics while drastically reducing waste and energy use. A spinoff company from Oregon State University research, Inpria is creating a thin-film manufacturing process based on inorganic chemistry, replacing current techniques that depend on large vacuum deposition systems, often use toxic chemicals and require high temperatures. Inpria’s technology can be used to create more powerful flat-panel displays through printing of large-area electronics. In addition to attracting venture capital investment, Inpria has received support from the University Venture Development Fund and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnology Institute (ONAMI).
Running robots offer vast potential
For something humans usually learn to do by the time they are a year old, walking is still a mystery to most scientists. But engineers Jonathan Hurst from Oregon State and Jessy Grizzle from the University of Michigan have successfully developed two walking robots, MABEL and ATRIAS, innovations that can help people with physical disabilities, take on dangerous missions or aid in disaster response. They’ve received support from the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Inspired by a fundamental understanding of how animals walk and run, use minimal energy to maximize locomotion and sensory response, Hurst and Grizzle developed a mechanical system of fiberglass springs that interact with a software control system to create efficient and stable walking and running patterns. MABEL can run a nine-minute mile and step off a ledge. The lighter and faster ATRIAS has three-dimensional motion capabilities.
Nature inspires a better wood adhesive
Inspired by mussels that tenaciously cling to rocks underwater, Oregon State wood scientist Kaichang Li developed a natural alternative to formaldehyde-based wood adhesives. Using domestically grown, abundant and inexpensive soybeans, Li and his team — with funding support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — experimented with soy protein to create a non-toxic adhesive that is cost competitive with formaldehyde-based products. Columbia Forest Products, the country’s largest producer of hardwood plywood, licensed the adhesive as PureBond®. The results include higher air quality and lower emissions in the company’s manufacturing plants, a more sustainable product and healthier home environment.
Applying science to apparel design
Outdoor apparel gets hit by driving rain and snow, freezing temperatures and intense sun. It has to keep the wearer warm, dry and comfortable. And it should look good. With the only science-based apparel-design school on the West Coast, Oregon State University provides innovative research and testing resources, along with qualified graduates for a growing cluster of outdoor apparel companies, including Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Adidas America and KEEN. Oregon State scientists are studying the properties of natural materials such as flax and poplar to provide insulation and moisture control. They experiment with multi-layer apparel designs, put them through moisture and temperature tests and offer fabric-testing services to small firms and start-ups.
Nanotubes could speed medical diagnostics, reduce costs.
Proteins hold a key to early disease diagnosis, but spotting them at the first stage of an illness such as Alzheimer’s or cancer remains an elusive goal. Oregon State physicist Ethan Minot is exploring the potential of a detection system based on carbon nanotubes.
With support from U.S. Army Research Laboratory through ONAMI, an interdisciplinary team of physicists, chemists and biomedical researchers grow hollow strands of pure carbon, attach them to silicon chips and treat them with biological molecules that bind with specific proteins. The nanotubes change their electrical resistance when a protein lands on them, and the extent of this change can be measured to determine the presence of a particular protein, such as serum and ductal protein biomarkers that may be indicators of breast cancer. The goal is to give physicians a simple device to scan a blood sample for proteins during a routine physical.