September 1, 2011

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Spin Cycle

Utah’s Research Universities are Churning out Exciting Technology

Marie Mischel

September 1, 2011

Credibility Assessment Technologies, LLC
Inventors have been trying since at least the late 1800s to create a machine that will reliably detect when someone is lying. The latest technology in this area comes from Credibility Assessment Technologies (CAT), which was formed about 16 months ago after a University of Utah research foundation presentation to Park City Angels. CAT offers proprietary eye-tracking software that acts as a lie detector; its market is law enforcement and other government agencies.

The company’s science team includes four U professors who hope to have the product available within a year. Company President Donald Sanborn, a Park City Angel, has the company doing validation testing in Bogota, Colombia; additional testing is scheduled to start in August in Mexico City.

“Compared with the polygraph, our technology can perform a deception-detection test in 30 minutes as opposed to three hours,” he says, “and it’s a computer-controlled test that doesn’t require a skilled examiner.”

USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) has been building space-born sensors for more than 50 years, so it made sense for the technology to go commercial. The laboratory now has a partner in the privately held GeoMetWatch to develop an advanced weather forecasting system.

“SDL will design, build and test the Sounding and Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology (STORM) instrument that will be the first in a series of the GeoMetWatch constellation of satellites,” says Curt Roberts, associate vice president of commercial enterprises at USU.

STORM will collect and deliver advanced atmospheric sounding data to enable forecasters to better predict the path of hurricanes, improve advanced warning time on tornadoes and better predict flood potential in specific regions, Roberts says.

Last year, the Department of Commerce granted GeoMetWatch a license to operate up to six orbital satellites, providing hyperspectral imaging and sounding products for advanced environmental and weather observations.

Renewable energy sources have been a focus of research for many years. At the U, researchers developed technology that has allowed Solan to create a prototype of a solar cell that uses one of the most abundant elements on the earth’s surface—graphite. Through conventional fabrication processing, the technology lowers the cost and increases the efficiency of solar power to the point where volumes and prices eventually could compete with today’s mainstream energy sources, says Brandon Lloyd, founder and CEO of Solan.

“We still have a long way to go, but it is legitimately one of the more revolutionary photo-voltaic technologies out in the world today, and it was originated at the University of Utah,” says Lloyd. The company, which was formed within the last year by a joint venture between two private companies and the U, has piqued the interest of Fortune 500 companies, he says.

With oil prices shooting through the roof, more attention is being given to alternative modes of transportation. Electric vehicles are already on the market, but the size, weight and storage capacity of batteries are problems that must be resolved before this technology can be marketed to its full potential.

USU’s Energy Dynamics Laboratory has new technology to address this. Known as wireless power transfer (WPT), the technology is geared toward mass transit vehicles such as buses and trains.

“Electrical infrastructure embedded in roadways and receiver coils mounted on vehicles work together to transfer power to vehicles only as needed,” says Curt Roberts, associate vice president of commercial enterprises at USU. “This approach holds the promise of creating a new class of vehicle electrification that is cost competitive with traditional methods and dramatically reduces on-board energy storage requirements.”

USU is spinning out a company known as WAVE to take the WPT technology to market.

Thermal Management Technologies
Thermal Management Technologies (TMT) is a 3-year-old company founded by Clair Batty, a retired USU professor and former department head of mechanical and aerospace engineering. TMT’s thermal panels, which have a unique way of uniformly re-distributing thermal energy from a point source across a large plane, originally were designed as a means of satellite temperature control and component mounting, but the company now is exploring applications ranging from personal computers to commercial cookware.

“TMT’s expertise is being applied to diverse industries from agriculture to oil and gas,” says Roberts. “For example, TMT is responsible for the Accelerated Vapor Recompression and Trilogy platforms now being deployed for oil and gas field wastewater reclamation by Purestream Technologies, Inc.”

In addition, TMT recently received a Technology Commercialization and Innovation Program grant from the state of Utah for water flow metering.

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