Group Title: Explore: research at the University of Florida
Title: Explore
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Title: Explore research at the University of Florida
Uniform Title: Explore (Gainesville, Fla.)
Alternate Title: Explore magazine
Physical Description: 27p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Office of Research and Graduate Programs
University of Florida -- Office of Research, Technology & Graduate Education
Publisher: Office of Research, Technology & Graduate Education
Place of Publication: Gainesville, FL
Publication Date: Summer 2009
Copyright Date: 2009
Frequency: semiannual
Subject: Research -- Periodicals -- Florida -- Gainesville   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1 (spring 1996)-
General Note: Title from cover.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00072619
Volume ID: VID00032
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 34667699
lccn - sn 96026776


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L ,r Mir ![ '.. nr Oli-. in _i ,. 1 .. ,:-J. Ir rl,.

'',. lir, Hi...... rirl,.Ji ,, ,.r in- in O i ,. LI, En,
His main point was that the nation's clean energy inno-
vators will help bring about energy independence while
creating new jobs and industries to drive economic recovery.
One of his leading examples was Sinmat, a Gainesville
startup featured in this issue. Sinmat is engineering bet-
ter ways to build microchips used in smart energy systems
such as efficient lighting. The president introduced Deepika
Singh, who founded Sinmat with her husband Rajiv, a UF
professor of materials science and engineering.
President Obama told Deepika and the other innova-
tors, "It's said that necessity is the mother of invention.
At this moment of necessity, we need you. We need some
What's true for the nation is also true for this university,
for this region and for Florida.
Like most other universities, UF faces severe cuts due to
the state's steep fall-off in tax dollars. At the statewide level,
Florida is struggling to find its way now that the mainstays
of housing and tourism are in such sad shape.


Research, technology transfer, startups in Obama's
word, "inventiveness"- all offer a proven path to a better
For evidence, we need only look to the past.
People in the tech community say successful commercial-
ization rests on four pillars: exciting technology, entrepre-
neurship, investment, and good location.
We have demonstrated success in all four areas here at
the University of Florida.
"The Today Show" this winter featured WiPower,
another UF spin-off profiled in this magazine. Also, the
BBC was in town not long ago to film a segment on
Sharklet Technologies, which makes a unique antimicro-
bial coating for medical devices. These are just two of sev-
eral startups that have drawn national attention in recent

4 Summer 2009

IF-~ __


Win Phillips,
Vice President for Research

Progress Corporate Park

Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Incubator

We also have a track record of successful entrepreneurs.
Look no further than Progress Corporate Park, adjacent
to the Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Incubator.
Some 1,200 people work in the park currently 85 percent
at successful UF spin-offs.
Investment is another strength. To be sure, the downturn
has made it tough to attract angel and venture funding,
but last year UF spin-offs cracked the $100 million mark
in venture funding. And, since the Sid Martin Incubator
was founded in 1995, its current and former occupants have
brought in at least $300 million in private investment dol-
lars as well as $100 million in grants.
Last but not least, there is a lot going on in this region.
We are part of the Florida High Tech Corridor Coun-
cil, which works to bolster the technology industry in a
23-county region throughout central and North Florida.
More locally, the Sid Martin Biotechnology Development








Incubator is full, with nine companies occupying all of its
The City of Gainesville's incubator, the Gainesville
Technology Enterprise Center, is also full, with nine of its
own companies.
Indeed, there is so much demand for startup support that
earlier this spring we made the decision to pursue another
incubator on the Alachua General Hospital property.
In our proposal to the federal Economic Development
Administration for a major grant, we argued that nurtur-
ing small, innovative companies is essential to restoring and
diversifying Florida's economy. The more we can do on this
score, the better, and this new incubator can add another
vital pillar of support.

Explore 5


Study: Alcohol Aff
Older Adults Mor

Older, active people
who have a drink or two
might be more impaired
afterward than they think,
according to a report from
versity of Florida research g
the Journal ofStudies on Al
Although people 50 or
the study metabolized alcol
larly to how younger people
performed worse on special
having moderate amounts
and did not always realize
were impaired. Soon after
hol, older adults also took
five seconds longer to comic
than their counterparts wh
have a drink.
1 .

ects to apply the brakes," said lead author
-e Sara Jo Nixon, a psychiatry professor
at I F'< McKnight Br-in Institute. "It
can mean
the differ-
lice between a
'-,ck and not-a-
SI oni- .i In,_,:l.. "
,.,p ", in -', )7, an esti-
cuuoo U, i maed 12,y98 people were
killed in crashes involving
older in alcohol-impaired drivers,
hol simi- according to the National
e did, they Highway Traffic Safety
1 tests after Administration.
of alcohol More than half of adults
when they older than 55 drink socially,
having alco- according to a 2008 report
on average from the Substance Abuse
plete a test and Mental Health Services
o did not Administration. But few stud-
ies have focused on the

I hat doesn't sound like short-term effects
much, but five seconds is a big of social drink-
difference if you're in a car and need ing among older adults.

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Previous research mainly investigated
consumption of large amounts of
alcohol at one time, and generally in
young people. But results from stud-
ies of younger adults might not be
applicable to older people because of
age-related declines in cognitive skills,
as well as changes in how alcohol is
metabolized and removed from the
Nixon's group aimed to expand
understanding of the effects over
time of moderate levels of alcohol
consumption in healthy, active older
"You want to know how long does
it take for them to become sober
enough to engage in potentially dan-
gerous activity such as driving," Sul-
livan said.
The study involved 68 nonsmok-
ers one group ages 50 to 74 and a
comparison group ages 25 to 35 -
who had at least one drink a month.
Within each group, some individuals

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6 Summer 2009


were given alcohol while others were
given a placebo beverage that did not
elevate their breath alcohol levels.
When a person consumes alcohol,
concentration in the blood builds to a
peak, then dissipates. During the first
phase of the metabolic process, alco-
hol has a stimulating effect. During
the second phase, there is a sedative
or depressive effect.
During each phase at 25 min-
utes and 75 minutes after alcohol con-
sumption, respectively participants
were given tests that required them to
draw lines connecting numbered and
lettered dots on a paper, in chronologi-
cal order, without lifting the pen from
the paper. They were timed and evalu-
ated for how many errors they made.
The first test involved numbers,
while the second involved alternating
between numbers and letters. Those
tests give clues about a person's men-
tal processing related to movement,
and about the ability to mentally

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shift from one problem-solving strat-
egy to another. The researchers also
asked participants to rate on 10-point
scales how intoxicated they felt, and
how much they thought the alcohol
impaired their performance.
Older adults who had alcohol
took longer to complete the tasks
than younger adults who had alcohol.
But there was no such age differ-
ence between the older and younger
groups that had not had alcohol. The
researchers found that even though
blood alcohol levels for participants in
both groups rose at a similar rate right
after drinking and reached the same
peak, the older adults did worse on
tests. That suggested the performance
gap seen after moderate amounts of
alcohol was not because of age-related
differences in how the body processes
the substance, but rather because of
other factors influencing how alcohol
affected the individuals.

In the test portion during the
"stimulating" alcohol phase, older
adults who had alcohol were slower
than those who had not had any. In
contrast, alcohol seemed to give the
younger group a performance boost
during that phase.
During that same post-drinking
phase, when the older adults were
impaired, they didn't think they were.
And in the second phase an hour
and 15 minutes after having alcohol -
older adults thought their performance
was impaired, even when it wasn't.
"An older person might say 'Really,
I feel all right, I'm sure I can drive,'"
Sullivan said. "But the study shows
that you can't always take someone at
their word."
So what advice would Nixon give
to active, older adults?
"If you have a couple of drinks at
dinner, sit around, have dessert -
don't drive for a while."

Czerne M. Reid

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Explore 7


Biomarker May Show
'Root' Of Colon Cancer

To truly kill colon cancer and
eliminate the risk of recurrence,
it is important to kill the "root"
of the disease, according to a
University of Florida College
of Medicine surgeon.
"It's like a dandelion if
you don't kill the root it just
keeps coming back," said Dr.
Emina Huang, a UF colorectal
surgeon, who added that colon and
rectal cancers have high recurrence
and spread rates, especially if the
disease is not found until advanced
Her findings, featured in April in
the journal Cancer Research, identify a
biomarker for colon cancer stem cells
that she believes will help researchers
further evaluate the cancers' origins
and progression. The discovery sheds
light on the cancer stem cell theory,
an idea that has arisen because cancer
cells and stem cells share many quali-
ties, including the ability of cancer
stem cells to demonstrate self-renewal.
The research determined a protein
called aldehyde dehydrogenase 1, or
ALDH1, can be used to identify, iso-
late and track these ultra-resilient cells
throughout the development of malig-
nant colon or rectum disease. Previ-
ously used markers cannot as precisely
track colon cancer stem cells.
"Without a better handle on what
cells might be contributing to cancer
metastases and recurrence, we won't
have any targets to go after," said
Huang, an associate professor in the
UF department of surgery and a mem-
ber of the Program in Stem Cell Biol-
ogy and Regenerative Medicine at the
UF College of Medicine. "This gives
us a potential target."
According to the American Cancer
Society, about 150,000 Americans are

diagnosed each year with colorectal
cancer, and more than 50,000 die
from the disease. In addition to the
potential advances in therapeutic
strategies, Huang said having a more
direct target to explore will benefit
progress in the areas of diagnostics
and prevention.
In collaboration with Dr. Bruce
Boman, a professor of medical
oncology at Thomas Jefferson
University in Philadelphia, Huang
chose to evaluate ALDH1 because
of its known association with breast,
brain and other cancers. In addi-
tion to being a strong marker for
malignant colon stem cells, the
researchers believe ALDH1 may be
a marker for benign colonic stem
cells. Whether these two types of
colonic stem cells are one of a kind
still needs to be determined.
Researchers implanted human
colon tissue cells into mice and
analyzed the resulting growth.
Although normal cell tissue was
evaluated, it never replicated in
the mice only the tissue that
was malignant grew. Compar-
ing ALDH1 patterns with that of
the previously used markers, the
researchers found ALDH1's pres-
ence was much more targeted,

suggesting a way to more definitively
i.,n rcify colon cancer stem cells in the
* ',r':nal tissues.
They also noted that ALDH1
indicated an increasing number
of colonic stem cells throughout
the progression of colon tissue's
transformation from normal
cells to premalignant cells to
cancerous cells. These find-
ings support the theory that an
increase in ALDH1 expression
marks the tumor growth in colon
i ncer stem cells.
Although the theory that cancers
are seeded by cancer stem cells is still
becoming scientifically accepted,
Huang said she thinks that in every
cancer there is a small fraction of cells
capable of reproducing the cancer. If
these unique cells are not killed or
removed during treatment, the cancer
will not be entirely destroyed.
While changes in patient care are
most likely years away, she says the
findings give researchers an immedi-
ate target to focus on as they try to
develop new medical interventions
and optimize treatment regimens to
completely kill the disease.
Potentially, tumors could be exam-
ined to determine if there is an over-
whelming expression of the biomarker,
or tests taken to determine if the
biomarker may be circulating in the
bloodstream scenarios that could
possibly indicate a worse outcome,
thus signaling the need for more
aggressive treatment.
"The next step is to look at some of
the predisposing conditions and see if
the pattern is suggestive of anything
we can do in the prevention mode,"
said Huang, who noted that people
with inflammatory bowel disease, for
example, have a higher risk of cancer.
Emina Huang,

Jennifer Brindise

8 Summer 2009


Vitamins Might Help
Prevent Hearing Loss

Vitamin supplements can prevent
hearing loss in laboratory animals,
according to two new studies, bring-
ing investigators one step closer to the
development of a pill that could stave
off noise-induced and perhaps even
age-related hearing loss in humans.
The findings were presented at the
Association for Research in Otolaryn-
gology's annual conference by senior
author Colleen Le Prell, a researcher at
the University of Florida.
The supplements used in the
research studies are composed of anti-
oxidants beta carotene and vitamins
C and E and the mineral magne-
sium. When administered prior to
exposure to loud noise, the supplements
prevented both temporary and perma-
nent hearing loss in test animals.
"What is appealing about this vita-
min 'cocktail' is that previous studies
in humans, including those demon-
strating successful use of these supple-
ments in protecting eye health, have
shown that supplements of these par-
ticular vitamins are safe for long-term
use," said Le Prell, an associate profes-
sor in the UF College of Public Health
and Health Professions' department of
communicative disorders.
About 26 million Americans have
n.l.i i,.. . 'i. Loiri _i loss, according

to the National Institute on Deafness
and Other Communication Disorders,
the agency that funded the studies.
In the first study, UF, University of
Michigan and OtoMedicine scientists
gave guinea pigs the vitamin supple-
ments prior to a four-hour exposure to
noise at 110 decibels, similar to levels
reached at a loud concert. Researchers
assessed the animals' hearing by mea-
suring sound-evoked neural activity
and found that the treatment success-
fully prevented temporary hearing loss
in the animals.
In humans, temporary noise-
induced hearing loss, often accompa-
nied by ringing in the ears, typically
goes away after a few hours or days as
the cells in the inner ear heal. Because
repeated temporary hearing loss can
lead to permanent hearing loss, the
scientists speculate that prevention of
temporary changes may ultimately
prevent permanent changes.
In the second, related study in
mice, UF, Washington University in
St. Louis and OtoMedicine research-
ers showed that the supplements
prevented permanent noise-induced
hearing loss that occurs after a single
loud sound exposure. The researchers
found that the supplements prevented
cell loss in an inner ear structure
called the lateral wall, which is linked
to age-related hearing loss, leading the

scientists to believe these micronutri-
ents may protect the ear against age-
related changes in hearing.
The research builds on previous
studies that demonstrated hearing loss
is caused not just by intense vibrations
produced by loud noises that tear the
delicate structures of the inner ear, as
once thought, said Josef Miller, who
has studied the mechanisms of hearing
impairment for more than 20 years
and is a frequent collaborator of Le
Prell's. Researchers now know noise-
induced hearing loss is largely caused
by the production of free radicals,
which destroy healthy inner ear cells.
"The free radicals literally punch
holes in the membrane of the cells,"
said Miller, a professor of communi-
cative disorders at the University of
Miller is the co-founder of
OtoMedicine, a University of Michi-
gan spin-off company that has patent-
ed AuraQuell, the vitamin supplement
formula used in the studies.
The antioxidant vitamins prevent
hearing damage by "scavenging" the
free radicals. Magnesium, which is
not a traditional antioxidant, is added
to the supplement mix to preserve
blood flow to the inner ear and aid in
Colleen Le Prell,

Jill Pease

Explore 9

IL 4111011 0h


Smallpox Shown To
Inhibit Inflammation

University of Florida researchers
have learned more about how smallpox
conducts its deadly business discov-
eries that may reveal as much about
the human immune system as they do
about one of the world's most feared
In findings published in May in
the Proceedings of the National Acad-
emy ofSciences, scientists describe how
they looked at all of the proteins pro-
duced by the smallpox virus in concert
with human proteins, and discovered
one particular interaction that disables
one of the body's first responders to
injury inflammation.
"This virus that 1-. -i
killed more human-
than any other
contains secrets
about how the
human immune
system works," said
Grant McFadden, a
professor of molecular genet- sm
ics and microbiology at the College
of Medicine and a member of the UF
Genetics Institute. "I'm always amazed
at how sophisticated these pathogens
are, and every time we look, they have
something new to teach us about the
human immune system."
With researchers from the Univer-
sity of Alberta, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention and a private
company called Myriad Genetics, UF
researchers for the first time systemati-
cally screened the smallpox proteome
- the entire complement of new pro-
teins produced by the virus during
interactions with proteins from human
These protein-on-protein interac-
tions resulted in a particularly devas-
tating pairing between a viral protein
called G1R and a human protein


called human nuclear factor kappa-B1,
which is believed to play a role in the
growth and survival of both healthy
cells and cancer cells by activating
genes involved in immune responses
and inflammation.
"One of the strategies of the virus
is to inhibit inflammation pathways,
and this interaction is an inhibitor of
human inflammation such that we
have never seen before," McFadden
said. "This helps explain some of the
mechanisms that contribute to small-
pox pathogenesis. But another side of
this is that inflammation can some-
times be harmful or deadly to people,
and we may learn a way to inhibit
more dangerous inflammation from
this virus."
Si, llp..l.: is blamed for an
timated 300 million

century alone, and out-
breaks have occurred
most continuously for
i iousands of years. The
,1'ease was eradicated by
virus a worldwide vaccination
campaign, and the last case of small-
pox in the United States was in 1949,
according to the CDC. The last natu-
rally occurring case in the world was
in Somalia in 1977.
With the exception of stores of the
virus held in high-containment facili-
ties in the United States and Russia,
smallpox no longer exists on the plan-
et. Since it was no longer necessary for
prevention, and because the vaccines
themselves were risky, routine vaccina-
tion against smallpox was stopped.
However, public health concerns
regarding the possible re-emergence
of the virus through bioterrorism have
led to renewed interest in the develop-
ment of treatments for the disease and
safer vaccines.
Grant McFadden,
John Pastor

Best Protectors From
Bullies? Girls Rule!

Playground bullies may meet their
match from where they least expect -
in the ranks of kids who are anti-bul-
lies and most of them are girls, a
new University of Florida study finds.
"Boys may be more likely to bully,
but girls are more likely to defend
those being bullied," said Jim Porter,
who did the research for his doctoral
dissertation in counselor education at
UF. "While a lot of attention has been
devoted to bully prevention programs,
very little recognition is given to kids
who jump in and try to stop the bully-
ing or comfort the victim."
These playground defenders merit
attention because research shows that a
majority of school shootings are com-
mitted by students who have been bul-
lied, and victims of bullying are at risk
for dropping out of school, suffering
from depression and bullying others,

10 Summer 2009


Porter said. Thirty percent of students
in sixth- through 10th-grade report
some experience with bullying, either
as a victim or perpetrator, he said.
Schools overlook good Samaritans
as they are putting a growing number
of bully prevention programs in place,
in some cases relying on peer media-
tion where students resolve the dis-
putes themselves, with mixed results,
Porter said.
"What is missing in these programs
is they don't incorporate children who
are already known to help victims," he
said. "Understanding kids who defend
against bullying may reveal a new ave-
nue toward preventing school-related
Porter surveyed 168 females and
101 males about how they believed
their mother, father, best friends and
favorite teachers would expect them to
respond if they encountered another
student being bullied. The offensive
behavior included hitting, shoving,

name-calling, teasing and ostraciz-
ing. Participants attended four middle
schools in North Central Florida and
were between the ages of 10 and 15.
Peer pressure can be a good thing,
the study found. Students said teach-
ers and parents were more likely than
best friends to expect them to try to
stop a bully, but they were more likely
to actually intervene if the message
came from a best friend. And more
girls than boys reported feeling pres-
sure from friends to come to a victim's
aid, Porter said.
Eighty-five percent of girls sur-
veyed said their best friend would
expect them to defend or help a bul-
lying victim, compared with only 66
percent of boys, Porter said. In con-
trast to this 19-point percentage gap,
there was only a 1- to 3-percentage
point difference in expectations for
boys and girls' behavior by teachers,
mothers and fathers, he said.
Being female or having more femi-
nine traits as measured by a gender
identity scale also increased the likeli-
hood that a student would defend a
bully, the survey findings showed.
"Gender stereotypes that girls are
more nurturing and boys are more
aggressive definitely play out in how
we expect boys and girls to behave,"
he said. "Somehow we communicate
these expectations to kids and it can
affect their behavior."
Schools may be the ideal place to
try to help change those ideas, said
Porter, who is now a counselor at Ala-
chua Integrative Medicine in Alachua.
"The news sometimes suggests that
violence makes schools a hazardous
place to be, but schools also are where
we can learn how to get along with
others and become adults," he said.
Giving a role in bully prevention
programs to bystanders who step in to
defend the victims on the playground
and in the classroom fits in with the

recent trend in educational psychology
toward positive reinforcement, Porter
"There was a time when people
were more likely to think of punishing
bad behavior," he said. "Now there is
a push toward finding and rewarding
good behavior."
Porter said he has always been
interested in the subject of bullying
because he was often beat up as a "new
kid" moving from one community
to another. "I never understood but
always wanted to discover why some
students were able to jump in and help
others," he said.
Focusing on defenders illustrates
dramatic changes in public attitudes,
he said.
"There was a time when bullying
was not researched because it was con-
sidered normal childhood behavior,"
he said. "It was thought of as being
part of growing up this learning to
determine a pecking order, and mak-
ing people stronger and weeding out
the weak."
Bullying expert Drew Nesdale, a
psychologist at Griffith University
in Queensland, Australia, said this
research suggests that a little recog-
nized and under-used source of help
might be found in the victims' peers.
"Interestingly, the fact that children
who help might be responding to the
expectations of others is consistent
with research that has identified the
powerful effect of the norms or expec-
tations of others on their behavior."
Jim Porter,

Cathy Keen

Explore II

. .L... L L

, t I


I .. :. ,.

--- 101

modern medicine has defeated a lot of
bogeymen, but it remains locked in a war of
attrition with an age-old nemesis: infection.
Nationwide, hospital care workers con-
front about 1.7 million healthcare-related infections annu-
ally and lose about 99,000 patients to them, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's more
than double the fatalities tied to auto wrecks every year.
What's worse, medicine's main weapons are flawed or
weakening. Disinfectants are impossible to apply every-
where, inevitably leaving spots for bacteria to grow. Chem-
ical controls, such as coated implants, can have dangerous
side effects or harm the environment. Antibiotics, one-
time miracle cures, are losing their punch to genetically
resistant bacteria.
But common menaces such as Staphylococcus aureus, as
well as more dangerous cousins such as "flesh eating" meth-
icillin-resistant staph commonly known by the initials
MRSA may soon face a new barrier.
Ironically, it is inspired by a fearsome flesh eater of its
own kind: the shark.

Explore 13

Conventional controls aim to kill bacteria. Tapping the
discoveries of a University of Florida materials science and
engineering researcher, UF biotechnology spin-off Shar-
klet Technologies has a radically different approach. The
Alachua-based company seeks to discourage bacteria from
colonizing surfaces in hospitals and medical devices using a
microscopic pattern modeled on the skin of the ocean's most
notorious predator.
Sharklet is gearing up to sell what it calls "engineered sur-
faces" that, laboratory tests show, ward off not only staph and
Escherichia coli, but also the more dangerous MRSA, Vanco-
mycin-resistant enterococcus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
"We believe we will have hygienic surface covers on the
market this year," says Sharklet Technologies CEO Joe
Bagan. "We're working on different medical devices to put
our pattern on, and it's going to be a little longer for those.
Maybe a couple of years."

The latest weapon in the war on bacteria didn't spring
from a medical laboratory. Instead, it is rooted in materials
science and engineering Professor Tony Brennan's efforts
to solve a seemingly unrelated problem: how to keep algae
from coating the hulls of submarines and ships.
Some people are lucky enough to have great ideas. For
Brennan, it was more a matter of asking a great question.
Brennan remembers the day well. He was visiting the
U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Oahu in 2002 as part of
his Navy-sponsored research. Convinced he could stop tiny

Sharklet is gearing up to sell what it calls "engineered surfaces" that,
laboratory tests show, ward off not only staph and Escherichia
coli but also the more dangerous MRSA, Vancomycn-resistant
enterococcus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

algal spores from attaching by using rows of microscopic
channels, he had eagerly awaited a look at experimental
samples previously submerged in the harbor. But the results
were abysmal, with the samples coming out of the water fes-
tooned with algae.
He and a handful of colleagues were watching an algae-
coated nuclear submarine leave port when the question
popped into his head.
"The submarine looked like a big whale lumbering out of
the harbor," Brennan says. "I asked, 'Do whales foul?' And
everyone said, 'yeah, whales are heavily fouled.' So I started
asking the question, 'which marine and freshwater animals
don't foul?"'
He couldn't get the question answered to his satisfac-
tion that day. But follow-up research revealed that of all big
marine animals, sharks remain most glisteningly smooth.
Brennan spent much of his career engineering new bio-
materials for dental implants. He asked a colleague at the
Florida Institute of Technology, Geoffrey Swain, to take an
impression of a shark skin using a common silicone mate-
rial. Like an impression for an ordinary tooth crown, it pro-
vided a negative imprint in this case, a small, but visible
pattern of rounded-off, diamond like, scales. (Many people
believe sharks don't have scales. In fact, the creatures' scales
are very small. They are known as placoid scales, or dermal
Each scale was made up of seven tiny ribs. Brennan used
a special tool, an optical profilometer, to measure the scales'
corresponding roughness. To his surprise, the ribs' width-
to-height ratios closely matched one of his mathematical

14 Summer 2009


models for roughness one thar e Ik -1
estimated would discourage alga, .p ..-
from settling.
At the time, Brennan believed r l,
spores would have a negative res,:ri -.. r,
surface roughness features meas., .. n 1
handful of microns. The shark s,- l. I- I- .
were far bigger. So he shrunk th.e I -I..-
skin rib pattern by a factor of 2(0 p -
rating each rib by two to five mi,:-r -n'
Tapping a process similar to the u-. ... 1.
to make computer chips, he nexr ti-i.-
cated thousands of these tiny "ril-I. r p ar-
terns on plastic.
He plunged the plastic into al I -I -.d1
seawater, waited an hour and pulled it out.
"The first time we tested it," Brennan
says, "we had an 85-percent reduction in the settlement of
green algae."

It was just one small test with just one type of fouling
organism, but the results were exciting. That's because
algae and its ilk are major problems not only for the Navy
but for all shippers. Fouled vessels have more drag as they
move through water, slowing them and cutting into their
fuel efficiency. The Navy estimates fouled hulls use 15 to
30 percent more fuel than clean ones, raising its fuel bill
by tens of millions of dollars.


Following in the footsteps of shipbuilders since antiquity,
the Navy and commercial shipping lines have fought the
problem with copper-based paint. But pollution and cost
concerns spurred the Navy to look for more environmentally
friendly, less expensive solutions.
With the Office of Naval Research's continued sponsor-
ship, Brennan set about confirming and expanding his results
while also seeking to understand the underlying mechanism.
He applied for his first patent in 2004. Several years and at
least $1 million later the Florida High Technology Cor-
ridor Council has also been a supporter Brennan has
confirmed that his pattern resists not only green algae but
also some varieties of barnacles. He has received two patents,

Explore 15



has applications for several more patents under consideration
and continues to work toward testing the pattern on real-life
ship hulls.
Meanwhile, the research has also expanded in a vastly
different direction. One of the fouling organisms that Bren-
nan sought to discourage was the tubeworm. Tubeworms
need bacteria to settle. So, in the spring of 2005, he asked
an undergraduate at work in his laboratory to grow some
bacteria on the SharkletTM pattern.
A few weeks later, Mathew Blackburn reported back: He
couldn't do it. The E. coli bacteria would not attach. Bren-
nan assigned two graduate students to work with Blackburn,
but the team could coax the E. coli to grow only up to the
side of the pattern.
It wasn't until Brennan read Blackburn's final report that
the idea dawned on him: Perhaps the pattern could do more
than ward off organisms that go after ships. Maybe it could
discourage those bad bacteria that target people.
"He thought he was failing, and when I got his report
and looked at it, it was like, 'Holy smokes!"' Brennan says.
"This could be very interesting."



Marine fouling organisms and bacteria are very differ-
ent life forms. But the two also share important similarities,
Brennan says. Both can move, and both put down adhesive
pads when they first stick to a surface. Green algae and
many bacteria also seem to appreciate company. They take
hold singly or in small groups, then seek to establish large
Like other life forms, Brennan says, bacteria and fouling
organisms seek the path of least resistance. He believes the
Sharklet pattern discourages colonization because it requires
too much energy to put down roots. The consequence: The
organisms decide to keep house hunting. With enough sur-
face protected, the theory goes, they die or become less of a
Whatever the mechanism, the Sharklet pattern works -
in laboratory tests, at least.
The Navy's interests were confined to fouling, so Bren-
nan turned to UF's extensive medical resources to pursue
the medical applications.

16 Summer 2009

Tony Brennan

In 2007, he founded Sharklet Technologies, based at UF's
Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Incubator. There,
Brennan chairs the company's scientific advisory board.
Brennan's and the company's tests reveal that the pat-
tern is remarkably effective at delaying colonization from
staph, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli and other pathogens.
Bagan, Sharklet Technologies' CEO, says the independent
infectious disease laboratory also found a "statistically
significant" difference in the survival of MRSA and VRE
bacteria in short time trials.
Sharklet Technologies' time-lapse images tell the tale
Bacterial colonies grow steadily on a smooth surface over
a period of three weeks, whereas they seem to struggle to
get established on the Sharklet pattern. By day 21, bacterial
films turn 77 percent of the smooth surface bright red -
versus 35 percent of the Sharklet pattern.
As promising as the results have been, the pattern has
yet to be tested in a real medical setting. But that's about to
Bagan says Sharklet Technologies has cleared all the
major hurdles in an effort to test adhesive-backed ver-
sions of the pattern on common hospital surfaces at a large

California hospital. Technicians, he says, have already
determined the surfaces most likely to contain large bac-
terial colonies. Known as "high-touch" surfaces, they
include nursing call buttons, bed rail control panels and
touch-screen cardiac monitor screens. The company plans
to apply the adhesive-backed Sharklet pattern to these sur-
faces and then monitor them for colonization.
Down the road, Sharklet Technologies also hopes to
cover and test medical devices and instruments. Bagan
says that because the pattern is not a chemical coating and
does not introduce any new substances, it probably will not
require clinical trials, but some safety trials may be needed.
Whatever the hurdles, the market is huge. The CDC
estimates that 32 percent of all healthcare-related infections
are tied to urinary tract infections, often stemming from
urinary catheters. If the Sharklet pattern could make cath-
eters safer, that alone would have a huge impact.
Brennan, for his part, is eager to gauge his invention's
"I am anxious to see this thing put out there because
once you put it on the market, you really get a test," he says.
"The market will determine viability." 0

Explore 17

0 J1








A actress Natasha Richardson's seemingly harmless fall
on a ski resort bunny slope last March and her tragic
death days later shocked fans the world over, but it
didn't shock the researchers at Banyan Biomarkers.
The traumatic brain injury, or TBI, that Richardson suf-
fered is exactly the type of injury the Alachua-based com-
pany was created to address.
"It's a silent epidemic," says Ron Hayes, a former
researcher at UF's McKnight Brain Institute who is co-
founder and clinical programs director of Banyan
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that 1.4 million people sustain a TBI each year in
the United States and 50,000 die. TBIs are the leading cause
of disability among young people and the most common
injury on the battlefield.
Hayes has spent a quarter century seeking a greater under-
standing of the physiological changes that occur after a head
injury. What he's learned is that, after the initial impact, a
"destructive cascade" of biological events occurs over the sub-
2 sequent hours or days. This cascade involves the activation of
two enzymes calpain and caspase which break down
proteins in brain cells, resulting in progressive damage and
S death of brain tissue.

But these events leave a telltale sign in the patient's blood-
stream, Hayes says, and it is that sign that offers hope for
more effective treatment.
"When the brain is injured, cells are injured and die,"
Hayes says. "When they disintegrate, ultimately the blood
or cerebrospinal fluid will pick up pieces of proteins. These
proteins can be specific markers clues to the death of the
cell telling us what caused it and where it happened."
Hayes, co-founder Kevin Wang and the team at Banyan
Biomarkers have identified more than 40 of these biomarkers
thus far. Now they're working to get a quick test for the con-
dition into the hands of first responders and military medics.
"The Natasha Richardson tragedy certainly illustrated the
need for something that is readily available and can be used
not only in an emergency-room environment but also in
the field by an EMT," says Banyan Biomarkers CEO Gary
According to news reports, the 45-year-old Richardson
seemed to suffer no ill effects from her fall and declined
medical treatment, but within hours she had slipped into
unconsciousness and within days she was dead.
"Mild injury is very difficult to diagnose and, in extreme
cases, it can progress very quickly to something much more
serious," Ascani says.

Explore 19



S. e The population most vulnerable to these injuries right
a now is soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, where explosive
devices have become the enemy's weapon of choice. That's
Su u why the U.S. Department of Defense has provided the com-
pany more than $20 million in funding to date to support
S* sthe research and work toward developing a test.
"The problems in Iraq and Afghanistan are driving com-
Sw u mercialization of this test for TBI," says Ascani. "For the
most part, the injuries our soldiers are suffering today are not
penetrating injuries like in Vietnam but explosive injuries,
and the traumatic brain injuries associated with these blasts,
have been of great concern to the Department of Defense
and to the Veterans Administration."
ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff focused attention on
the plight of soldiers with TBI after he suffered a head injury
in 2006 while reporting from Iraq.
In an ABC News special and a best-selling book, Wood-
ruff chronicled his own recovery and that of the many other
soldiers he met along the way.
"In this war it is not clear how many are injured. Mine
was obvious, but others are not," Woodruff said in a 2008
commencement speech at Syracuse University. "A recent
report by the Rand Corporation found that more than
300,000 soldiers are suffering from some kind of brain inju-
ry. That includes physical injuries or mental stress from com-
bat. Some of them have obvious wounds scars that mark
S* them as brain injured, But others are more hidden from the
outside and are, in a way, invisible."

Rendering of caspase enzymes.


Ascani says Banyan Biomarker's work for the military
should give civilian doctors confidence in the technology.
"We have these types of tests to objectively identify
heart injury, but nothing exists like that for TBI," Ascani
says. "Currently, doctors use a subjective test based on the
patient's cognitive responses, but what has been missing is a
reliable test that is more objective."
Typically, if doctors aren't sure, they'll order a CT scan.
"Mild injury is very difficult to diagnose even with a CT,"
Ascani says. "As a clinical diagnostic company, we see the
need for an objective measure that is inexpensive compared
to a CT scan."
In addition to the cost Ascani estimates the Banyan
Biomarkers test could cost just $50-75, compared to $1,000
for a CT scan CT exposes the patient to significant
amounts of radiation.
The company is currently validating the biomarkers in
a large study at hospitals in the United States and Europe.
Doctors are collecting blood and spinal fluid from patients
with head injuries upon admission and every six hours for 10
"We're building a profile of what these biomarkers look
like in a severe situation," Ascani says.
Ascani says the current study is part of the clinical path-
way of getting physicians in emergency rooms comfortable
with the idea that the test has value in determining whether
a patient has no injury or mild-to-severe injury.
That same educational process is going on within the
diagnostic device industry.
"TBI has not been recognized by the diagnostic industry
as a market opportunity," Ascani says. "We are working to
educate the industry to the market potential."
He says Banyan Biomarkers most likely will partner with
a company that already makes diagnostic devices.
"We've met with a number of platform manufactures
whose devices will work nicely with our markers," he says.
"We don't strive to be an instrument company. We'll identify
the biomarkers, then provide the critical raw materials to put
on an instrument. It's kind of like software and hardware.
We're the content, they're the tool."
Banyan Biomarkers has about 30 employees continuing
the search for biomarkers in its labs at UF's Sid Martin Bio-
technology Development Incubator.

For Ascani, who came to Banyan Biomarkers after several
years in a venture capital firm in Birmingham, Ala., and a
short stint running one of the companies in which the firm
invested, the incubator is essential to Banyan Biomarker's
continued success.
Because most federal grants don't permit new construc-
tion, he says, having access to high-quality laboratory space
is essential.
"Having quality space at UF's biotechnology incubator
available to us has made all the difference in the world,"
Ascani says. "In exchange for allowing us to rent here, UF
owns a piece of the company, so everyone has an opportunity
to win."
Because destructive cascades are not limited to the brain,
Banyan Biomarkers is also researching new tests for other
organs, including the liver.
Based on his more than 30 years in the biotechnology and
medical products industry, Ascani has promoted a unique
organizational structure at Banyan Biomarkers that allows
basic and applied science to proceed simultaneously.
Corporate structures often don't allow for the kind of
basic research typically conducted in academia, Ascani says,
so in late 2007, when Hayes and Wang joined Banyan Bio-
markers full-time after careers at UF, the team decided to
create Banyan Biomarker's Center of Innovative Research
- a place where fundamental science continues apace with
developing commercial products.
"A fundamental challenge in biotechnology and pharma-
ceutical companies is to foster research supporting product
pipelines without inhibiting the creative processes essential
for scientific discovery," Ascani says. "Banyan's Center of
Innovative Research was created to address that challenge."
One day soon, Hayes hopes the work Banyan Biomarkers
has done for the military will result in first responders every-
where having a quick, easy, inexpensive way to determine if
someone has suffered traumatic brain injury.
"TBI is a scandalously ignored health problem," he says.
"It's the biggest killer of kids. This research is where home-
land defense provides a service for the soccer mom." 0

Explore 2 I



.. . . .
....... ......
... ..... .......

............... ...............



Systems in Alachua closed its doors, Deepika
Singh couldn't have imagined it would open so
many other doors for her.
But when the rechargeable battery manufacturer left the
Gainesville area, Singh took her entrepreneurial spirit and
a background in materials science and went looking for an
Her search led her back to the people and the science
she knew best.
Based on research conducted by her husband, UF mate-
rials science and engineering Professor Rajiv Singh, the
two founded Sinmat to develop solutions for the semicon-
ductor industry.
Deepika Singh is the company's president, while Rajiv
Singh serves as vice president and chief technology officer.
"We both have our own innovative accomplishments,
expertise and industrial experience which we bring to Sin-
mat," says Deepika Singh.
During his nearly 20 years at the University of Florida,
Rajiv Singh has become a world leader in the semiconduc-
tor processing field, earning 16 patents and authoring two
popular industry software programs, 10 books and more

than 400 publications. He is also a principal in another
company called Nanotherapeutics that is developing ways
of using nanotechnology in the pharmaceutical field.
At Sinmat, the company's wafer polishing technology
promises to make it cheaper and easier to build smaller,
ever-more-powerful semiconductor chips, which are at the
heart of countless new industries.
And that's the reason Deepika Singh was invited to a
White House conference on emerging industries in March.
There, President Barack Obama singled out her company
for praise, noting that it helped to address the energy crisis
by "developing new ways to manufacture microchips that
can help power smarter energy systems, from more fuel-
efficient hybrid cars to more responsive, efficient lighting
for homes and businesses."
"The way he said what the company does, I could not
have said it better," says Rajiv Singh. "It was very exciting
to see he had captured the essence of what we do in clean
President Obama isn't the only one to notice Sinmat. In
2004, 2005 and 2008, R&D Magazine recognized Sinmat
for creating one of that year's 100 most technologically
significant products.

Explore 23



During that time, Sinmat has grown from four employ-
ees to 16 and last year the company reported a significant
growth in revenues.
Making a computer chip is a long, complex process car-
ried out at the microscopic level.
Chip makers begin with a silicon wafer, then "grow"
a layer of silicon dioxide on it by exposing the wafer to
extreme heat and gas. A "mask" or stencil, representing a
computer circuit, is placed on top of the wafer and then the
whole wafer is bathed in ultraviolet light. Exposed wafer
material becomes gooey and is washed away, leaving behind
microscopic "etched" trenches, which are then filled with a
metal, such as copper, that conducts electricity and connects
hundreds of millions of transistors.
The unexposed "ridges" of the wafer are leveled by a pro-
cess called chemical-mechanical planarization, or CMP, and
this is where Sinmat comes in.
To smooth the wafer, manufacturers apply a slurry of
chemicals and microscopic particles that first dissolve and
then scrub unwanted material from the surface of the wafer.
Next, a machine-controlled polishing pad applies pressure
to the treated wafer to polish or plane away the ridges until
they are level enough to meet precise industry standards.
This layering-and-etching process must be repeated as many
as 20 times to create a modern, integrated chip. Finally, the
wafer is cut into hundreds of identical microprocessors.
Based on her own experience in material science and her
husband's longtime involvement in the field, Deepika Singh
understood early on that changes were coming to the semi-
conductor industry and that opportunity awaited those who
could improve on the CMP process.
"The continued miniaturization of transistors provides
new opportunities in development of more defect-free pla-
narization techniques, especially for new materials that are
being introduced in the semiconductor industry," she says.
So one of Sinmat's first steps was to license CMP tech-
nology developed by Rajiv Singh from UF.
Over the past decade, Rajiv Singh has been working to
refine the CMP process by chemically manipulating atoms
in the materials.

Among the proprietary products developed so far by Sin-
mat and a UF research team are "smart" slurries.
"If you have large particles in the slurry and apply pres-
sure, you can end up with scratches," says Deepika Singh.
"So, you have to use smaller nano-derived particles and
Such nano-particles are at the heart of Sinmat's current
top product, the "Ultra-Rapid Polishing Slurry for Wide
Band-Gap Semiconductors." The slurry is used in a pro-
cess that softens the hard material so that it can be quickly
removed. Its tiny nano-particles also render a finer polishing
effect and are less likely to leave blemishes on substrates.
Sinmat has also come up with elastic "nano-sponges
that compress without sticking to surfaces and then
"bounce back" to their original shape once pressure is
removed from the polishing pads.
"The nano-sponges are useful when you have especially
hard particles and a very soft material like copper or a
dielectric," says Deepika Singh. "Our slurry is also very
selective in nature; it will polish some materials, but not
Sinmat's smart slurries are expected to be invaluable as
the semiconductor industry adds more micro-components

24 Summer 2009


onto wafers to boost computing power. To make room for
these new components, micro-transistors are being engi-
neered closer together, causing the silicon dioxide insulators
to become thinner. But, as more components are crammed
together, the potential for harmful electrical interference
In response, the semiconductor industry has begun
replacing silicon dioxide with another material, known as
ultra-low-k dielectric, or ULK. It's the same thickness as
silicon dioxide, but less prone to electrical interference. ULK
also allows faster switching speeds and gives off less heat.
But there's a downside. ULK is easy to scratch and
break so Sinmat's soft sponge properties are "ideal," says
Deepika Singh.
Another industry challenge is that multiple, costly steps
are involved in using CMP. The process is time consuming,
too. It can take tens of hours to polish a wafer.
But Sinmat has found a way to speed things up. It's a
digital-based approach that increases the precision of the
polishing process over large wafers.
"What used to take days," says Deepika Singh, "now
takes hours."
This speed will be even more important, she says, as the
size of industrial wafers increases in response to demand for
more chips at lower prices.
Not long ago, the standard industrial wafer size was
about eight inches in diameter. Now in response to market
pressures to bring down semiconductor manufacturing pric-
es, they've grown in size and may soon reach half a meter in


- RAJTy isJG H

But the larger wafers are hard to polish uniformly.
"With the old, analog approach to material removal, you
can polish too much, or not enough," says Deepika Singh.
"A digital approach, however, let's you apply the exact
amount of polishing in a precise, uniform manner."
A faster, more efficient process, of course, also means
savings for manufacturers. Sinmat estimates that its digital
CMP process could cut manufacturing costs up to 80 per-
cent, saving the industry $4 billion annually.
A $2 million grant from the Advanced Technology Pro-
gram of the National Institute for Standards and Technol-
ogy will help fund Sinmat's next generation CMP and the
company has won grants from the National Science Foun-
dation and the Department of Defense.
Currently, the young company is interested in forging
strategic relationships with other companies in the micro-
processor industry to help test digital CMP and to assist in
the manufacturing and marketing of Sinmat's technologies.
In addition to its research activities, Sinmat provides
wafer polishing services to companies and universities all
over the world that are conducting research and develop-
ment in the compound semiconductor field.
Sinmat is leveraging its CMP technology into new clean
energy applications including solid state lighting, where
5-watt lamps can supply the brightness of 100-watt incan-
descent lamps, and manufacturing of ultra-thin, highly
efficient solar cells.
"We are very excited about these energy-related applica-
tions. The growth potential is immense, while at the same
time we are achieving energy sustainability," says Rajiv
Sinmat is located at the Gainesville Technology Enter-
prise Center (GTEC) incubator. But, if the business con-
tinues to grow, company officials anticipate leaving the
incubator in a year or two for a larger facility.
"We were born at the University of Florida," says David
Massias, the company's chief corporate development offi-
cer. "We're the child that's grown up, and we can walk
now." 0

Explore 25

uE a
11 U i o -
d .. ti *;


WiPo wer



S martphones, GPS and laptops have allowed us to
communicate and navigate from almost anywhere,
but their insatiable demand for power has also kept
us tethered to the wall until now.
Just as WiFi freed us from telephone cords and modems,
a Gainesville start-up company called WiPower pro-
nounced "y-power" promises to free us from tangled
bundles of chargers and cords.
In WiPower's world, you could toss all of your electronic
devices onto a charging pad on top of your desk or built into
your kitchen counter and they would draw just the amount
of power they need, whether it's 60 watts for a laptop or 2
watts for an iPhone.
And WiPower's founders aren't all about convenience.
They say wireless power is greener because it's more efficient
and eliminates the need for billions of power adapters.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are
anywhere from 12 tol5 billion power adaptors being used
worldwide, or 2.5 for every person on Earth. A lot of cords
and adaptors that quickly end up in landfills could be elimi-
nated by a universal wireless charger.
In a world with 15 billion chargers, energy efficiency is
a big deal. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
estimates that the 2.5 billion power supplies in use in the
S United States consume at least 2 percent of all U.S.

electricity. More efficient power supply designs could cut
that usage in half, saving nearly $3 billion and about 24 mil-
lion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
WiPower says its prototype wireless chargers operate at
about 60 percent efficiency, although the company says it has
achieved higher than 75 percent in testing. By comparison,
EPRI estimates most corded power supplies used in con-
sumer electronics have efficiencies in the range of 30 to 40
The financial implications of practical wireless power
are enormous. According to a 2006 Department of Energy
study, the U.S. power-supply market is expected to reach $6
billion in 2010. And the world market may reach $30 bil-
lion. In addition, consumer electronics manufacturers could
save millions more if they didn't have to include a charger
with every device they sell.
The inspiration for WiPower grew out of founder Ryan
Tseng's frustration at having to cart around bundles of char-
gers every time he traveled. It has evolved into a company
that's been getting a lot of buzz in tech circles.
WiPower's booth was crowded at the 2009 Consumer
Electronics Show in Las Vegas and it earned them a plug on
NBC's "The Today Show," where anchor Ann Curry demon-
strated lightbulbs illuminating as she dragged them onto the
charging pad.

Explore 27

As a UF engineering under;r idu 1 ir. T_. I I-, irn s..
frustrated with all the .i ffKi.e r r ,in; L p. ..- ,: ir ii I,
had to carry with him -.- ,n IK r I ...1 rl kr I, ppr' i,: -,...
one of his electrical in .: .in-.pu rr i ,.i 1' ri n,,,i, professors,
Jenshan Lin, about possible solutions.
While the idea seemed simple enough, the engineering
challenges were considerable. Over the next several years,
Tseng, Lin, Zhen Ning Low and other students and faculty
worked long hours developing a practical product.
Along the way they patented several aspects of their
research and worked with UF's Office of Technology Licens-
ing to recruit business professionals to their team and attract
One of those investors was the Florida High-Tech Corri-
dor Council, or FHTCC, which awarded the fledgling com-
pany a $100,000 matching grant in 2006 to continue Lin
and his UF team's research. In 2007, the council provided
more funding this time a $150,000 matching grant to
support a research relationship between Lin's campus research
team and WiPower.
Dating back at least to Nikola Tesla's experiments in the
1890s, scientists have known that a coiled device with elec-
tricity flowing through it will create a magnetic field that
can induce energy in the coil of another nearby device. But
there's a big difference between transmitting power between
two giant electrodes in a laboratory and transmitting it
between the wall and a cell phone.
"Wireless power has never been both technically and
commercially viable," says Henoch Senbetta, WiPower's mar-
keting director. "The trade-offs were unending."

Bur i' i ,-.- ,-r s r'i' rh I, I-, I ured out how
r.I. il i i ,: I ill I t rl. rir i.l ,- i o *i n ill ) viable
- I r'.ii.
TIk I..., rl ., i i r..r ll, n'.. ippir. ch to the elec-
trm ni.,: in.l rk tIr r.. ,n rkl r ll,:rr. .Ics.
Of the various ways scientists have developed for transfer
power between a transmitter surface and a receiver induc-
tive, radio frequency (RF) harvesting, resonant WiPower
chose "inductive coupling" because it offered the most power
at the lowest cost.
"WiPower realized that a coreless inductive wireless power
system truly makes the most sense because it is an efficient,
small, low-cost solution, while still being applicable to the
wide variety of power requirements that our mobile devices
have," says Senbetta.
A modern wireless charger needs two basic parts: a
coiled transmitter that is plugged into an outlet and a coiled
receiver. The transmitter emits magnetic waves that move in
a characteristic manner. The receiver's coil, when placed near
the transmitter, "tightly couples" with these waves and turns
them into electricity stored in its batteries.
Commercial wireless chargers such as those found in
some electric toothbrushes already exist. The trouble is
that the toothbrush must be "aligned" in a port in a precise,
prescribed way for the coupling process to work properly.
"The biggest issue for us," says Tseng, "was to come up
with something that would allow a user to put multiple
devices in any position on the charging pad and get them to

28 Summer 2009


At WiPowers lab in the Gainesville
Technology Enterprise Center, com-
pany founder Ryan Tseng (far left)
and a team of engineers are address-
ing the many technical '. '
in cutting the cord on electrical

In typical entrepreneurial fashion, Tseng says the
WiPower team "lived in the lab 24 hours a day. We slept
under the lab table, showered at the gym, ate microwavable
food and almost never saw the sunlight for a year."
By 2008, the team finally "got a handle on the situation"
on the alignment challenge by redesigning much of the inter-
nal electronic architecture of the transmitter.
"The final product has stayed consistent with the original
design," says Tseng, "but the technology underpinning it is
not like we expected. At one point, we threw out about half
of what we did in research and went down a new path. But
it was a good decision. Today, we're the only company that
has a charging pad that can charge multiple devices simulta-
neously without the alignment problem."
Unlike competing products, WiPower's charger does not
use radio signals to communicate with a receiving device to
determine how much energy the device needs. Instead, it
"senses the signature of the voltage and current character-
istics of the receiver," says company electrical engineer and
researcher Ashish Gupta. This capability means lowers costs
because there's no need for antennas and other components.
There is also less electromagnetic interference and fewer
design changes needed to keep up with the thousands of new
consumer electronic products that hit the market every year.
"A typical laptop draws about 60 to 65 watts maximum,
while a cell phone is anywhere from 2 to 2.5 watts," says
Gupta. "We've come up with a coil design for the transmitter
that creates an even field of energy across the pad."

WiPower is preparing to take its charger to the electronics
consumer market and plans to start production by the end
of 2009.
"Our objective," says Tseng, "is to have original equip-
ment manufacturers integrate our technology into their
appliances, so they would be compatible with our charging
Because the company didn't want its business model to be
completely reliant on the manufacturers, it is also develop-
ing a way for consumers to "retrofit" their existing electronic
devices with WiPower receivers to make them compatible
with WiPower's charging pad.
In addition, WiPower is developing military and indus-
trial applications of its technology. Recently, the Department
of Defense awarded the company a $70,000 grant to work
on a wireless power pack to help soldiers in the field.
"American military personnel often have a lot of equip-
ment to carry around," says Tseng. "Soldiers in combat have
been known to become ensnared in their cables from night
vision goggles and other gear, which often puts them in
A central, battery-operated power pack that wirelessly
recharges all devices simultaneously could save lives, he says.
WiPower officials predict that one day wireless power
will be ubiquitous, available to users in glove compartments,
hotels, airports, coffee shops, cafds and other public places,
just like WiFi. O

Explore 29


or 80 years, the University of Florida's Bureau of Eco-
nomic and Business Research (BEBR) has been the
go-to resource for information about the state's popu-
lation and economy.
And during difficult economic times, demand is even
higher for information produced by the bureau.
"There have been some tremendous shifts in Florida's
population trends and economic climate over the last couple
of years," says BEBR Director Stan Smith. "In times like
these, having the latest economic and demographic data is
even more important than usual."
From the state capitol in Tallahassee to city hall in Miami,
and at hundreds of city councils, banks, newspapers and
chambers of commerce in between, people interested in
where Florida is going turn to BEBR for guidance.
One of the bureau's best-known products is the monthly
Florida Consumer Confidence Report. Conducted by the
bureau's Survey Research Program, the monthly survey of
about 500 adults is based on a similar national survey con-
ducted by the University of Michigan. Newspapers around
the state are quick to publish the survey's results as an indica-
tor of how the state's economy is faring.
The survey is benchmarked to 1966, so a score of 100
means Floridians have the same degree of confidence in the
economy today as they did in 1966. A lower number means
they are less confident.
The all-time highest score for the survey occurred in
2000, when it reached 111. In June 2008, confidence slipped
to 59, the lowest point in the survey's 25-year history.
But program director Chris McCarty says the trend in
2009 has been up.
Confidence surged six points in April to 71, bolstered by
perceptions that it was a good time to buy big-ticket items
like cars and appliances.

"The size of the increase comes as somewhat of a sur-
prise," says McCarty. "We had expected confidence among
Florida's consumers to move up and down in a fairly narrow
window from the low to the upper 60s."
In addition to gauging consumer confidence, the program
conducts many other surveys for state agencies such as the
Department of Children and Families and the Department
of Transportation and for outside organizations including the
Kaiser Family Foundation and RAND Corporation.
During 2007-2008, more than 200 UF students working
seven days a week out of a 75-station computerized lab com-
pleted more than 60,000 interviews.
"Students from both UF and Santa Fe College make up
more than 50 percent of our interviewing staff," McCarty
says. "For many of them this is their first job. Although it is
not a career for most, the survey lab is a source of employ-
ment and a place where they learn to work with others and
manage their workday."
BEBR is also the state's official source for population
The bureau began making county population estimates
for Florida in the 1950s and in 1972 received the first of
a continuous series of annual contracts from the State of
Florida to produce the state's official city and county popula-
tion estimates.
The latest estimate, released in March, reflected the small-
est population increase in Florida in more than 60 years.
"A tremendous slowdown in population growth has
occurred, primarily because of tough economic times," says
Smith, who also heads the Population Program. "People
don't move to Florida when they can't find jobs and have dif-
ficulty selling their homes. The state has not experienced a
decline of this magnitude since the 1940s, when thousands
of military personnel stationed in Florida left the state after
World War II."


Perc Percentage Change in Florida's Population 1980-2030

O 000 0

,000 0


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FIl I..I, 11- 1 01

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e Ixa II n, r ofI .r I-.rl ,, 1 p rI . ....1.. p ..a1l... 1 ta .po i .i

xamlnanion of llorldas property and sales tax pohcles. 0 O

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