Tag Archives: “Virginia Tech”

Virginia Tech Researchers sort cancer cells using micromachined silicon

Virginia Tech reports today on new research to identify early stage cancer cells.

Using ovarian surface epithelial cells from mice, researchers from Virginia Tech have released findings from a study that they believe will help in cancer risk assessment, cancer diagnosis, and treatment efficiency in a technical journal: Nanomedicine.


Read more here.

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Filed under biomimetic, biotechnology, genetics, medical technology

Smart phones, the return….

As promised in an earlier edition (see Smart phones to be even smarter), we will look at the use of cognitive engines in mobile communications.

Charles Bostian

Dr. Bostian

Several years ago, Dr. Charles Bostian of the Mobile and Portable Radio Group at Virgnina Tech came up with a way to make radios smart enough to adapt to a changing frequency environment.  That means tune themselves to different frequency bands depending on who is talking to them.  His concept resulted in a patent for the utilization of a cognitive engine in mobile radio communications.

And who uses mobile radio communication devices?  Well, you do, if you have a cell phone.  Cell phones are just two-way radios with some fancy shmancy software.  Even though Bostian initially envisioned communications such as for emergency services like police and fire being able to talk to each other in an emergency, the principles apply equally well to cell phones.

In fact, they may apply even better to cell phones.  Because cell phones not only have to adapt to a multitude of scheduling issues, such as handover from cell to cell, signal strength variations, and data types, but they also will have to be frequency agile in the future.  That’s because most of the contiguous band assigned to cell phone use has been, well, used.  Now they are scavenging bandwith wherever they can find it, and that may actually be in different bands as you travel around the country based on who is using what in each region.  Ay! Carumba!

So, how does this work?  Well, to borrow some info from the VT website, “Cognitive radios are aware of their environment and intelligently adapt their performance to the user’s needs. A CR is a software defined radio with a “cognitive engine” brain. Conceptually, the cognitive engine responds to the operator’s commands by configuring the radio for whatever combinations of waveform, protocol, operating frequency, and networking are required. It monitors its own performance continuously, reading the radio’s outputs to determine the RF environment, channel conditions, link performance, etc., and adjusting the radio’s settings to deliver the needed quality of service subject to an appropriate combination of user requirements, operational limitations, and regulatory constraints. We call these processes “reading the radio’s meters” and “turning the radio’s knobs” for short.”

So, yeah.  There you have it.  Most importantly, that patent that Bostian got a couple of years ago is looking to be very important in enabling this technology for the future.

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Filed under Communications, electronics, Networks, software

Clot, Unclot. Rinse, Repeat.

Are you worried about excessive blood clotting?  Well, you should be.

A blood clot is a jelly-like mass of tissue formed by clotting (coagulating) factors in the blood as a normal reaction to injury of a blood vessel. This is a great mechanism of the body when it occurs to stop the bleeding caused by an injury. However, blood clots can become very dangerous, like when plaque deposits in the blood vessel walls rupture and a blood clot forms. If a piece of the blood clot breaks away and gets into the bloodstream, it can block the flow of blood to the heart or brain and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Luckily there are drugs available to prevent excessive clot formation.  Unfortunately, if too much of these blood “thinners” are used, the patient can have a reverse problem – not enough clotting which could then increase the risk of hemorrhage or uncontrolled bleeding.  The problem is, once these anticoagulants are used, they are difficult to clear out of the blood quickly, which can lead to serious problems.

In a recent publication, researchers  Daniel Capelluto and Carla Finkielstein together with students Karen Drahos and John Welsh identified a novel protein/ligand interaction that regulates the initial process of platelet aggregation and leads to clot formation.  That is great all by itself, but the exciting part is that this mechanism is reversible.   So it provides a way to quickly reverse the treatment if a patient is injured or otherwise needs to reduce blood levels of the pharmaceutical.   In addition, it may be a useful adjunct to control the extent of bleeding during a normal surgical procedure or promote wound healing.

An added bonus:  unlike some treatments, this type of intervention is unlikely to stimulate an immune response.

You can read more about this specific invention  here, and you can talk about it with a real live person by contacting  Jackie Reed (jreed@vtip.org, 540-443-9217).  Also you can learn more about the researchers and their work by reading some articles written about them.  Here is one.  Here is another.

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Filed under biotechnology, medical technology

Tiny structures have big impact on environmental sensing

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are microscopic structures fabricated by etching away tiny amounts of silicon using similar processes as are used to make computer chips.  These small electronic and mechanical structures are already being used in a number of commercial applications such as, for example, the sensors used to deploy airbags in an automobile crash.

But the use of MEMS in sensing applications goes much farther than that.  At Virginia Tech, two different research groups are applying these techniques to create tiny, ultrasensitive devices to detect chemical and biological materials for medical, environmental and security applications.

Dr. Masoud Agah, under an NSF Career grant, has been working on developing many MEMS devices in his MicrON research group.  The current research at VT MEMS Lab centers on the development of CMOS-compatible three-dimensional silicon micromachining techniques, smart microchip coolers, micro gas analyzers for environmental and healthcare applications, and biochips for cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment monitoring. In addition, the lab is pursuing research to merge MEMS (top-down approach) and nanotechnology (bottom-up approach) in order to enhance the performance of the microsystems.

In the Center for Photonics Technology (CPT), Dr. Anbo Wang‘s group is using the same fabrication techniques to create tiny sensors on the tip of an optical fiber only a couple of microns in diameter.  In one of CPT’s latest inventions, the MEMS structure is used to detect trace amounts of chemical and biological materials, as well as serving as a tunable optical filter.  The new device is activated using only light traveling inside the fiber, and so requires no external electrical or mechanical energy, making it perfect for applications in hazardous or remote  environments.

Both of these MEMS technologies create the opportunity to improve detection of trace materials, and will be important in medical and environmental sensing applications, including those relating to security.

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Filed under Materials, Sensing

Energy Innovations

Virginia Tech is committed to research and education that provides solutions for the Nation’s energy needs.  In 2006, the Deans’ Task Force on Energy Security and Sustainability was formed to assist with university-level efforts in energy research.  These efforts include assisting faculty members with the preparation of large grant proposals in research areas related to energy security and sustainability, seeking partnerships that position Virginia Tech as a national and international leader in areas of expertise, and  coordinating campus-wide events, such as a speaker series and community engagement activities.

The university has a long history of producing innovations in the areas of alternative fuels, energy production, and many related technologies.  One example is the recovery of waste coal through a novel cleaning and dewatering process developed by Dr. R-H Yoon in the department of Mining and Minerals Engineering.  Using this process, billions of tons of coal that have been considered mining waste for decades can now become a low-cost energy source.

For more information on this technology, or to inquire about licensing opportunities, contact Michael Miller using the subject VTIP 10-074, via the VTIP link to the right.

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Filed under Energy, fuel


Welcome to the HokieTech blog, where you will find information about new technologies, many of which originate in the laboratories of Virginia Tech, one of the premier research and engineering universities in the US, and the world.  This blog is maintained by Michael Miller, Senior Licensing Manager at Virginia Tech intellectual properties (VTIP).  VTIP is a non-profit corporation that manages intellectual properties and  technology transfer.

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