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News Archive 2001 - 2010

UT Arlington Moving Ideas from Laboratories to Marketplace

May 20, 2008

Three projects conducted by researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington have each received $50,000 through the Texas Ignition Fund in an effort to stimulate the commercialization of products and processes developed in UT Arlington laboratories. Fourteen projects at The University of Texas System institutions received support from the fund, which was initiated and is supported by the UT System Board of Regents.

BEST™ GERD: Batteryless Endoluminal Sensing Telemeter for Gastro Refluxed Detection
Electrical Engineering Professor J. C. Chiao and his associates at UT Southwestern – clinicians Shou-Jiang Tang, Stuart Spechler and H. Fred Tibbals – are perfecting a flexible, battery-powered sensor that can be placed in a patient’s esophagus to monitor the symptoms of gastroesophageal acid reflux, sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Current tests for GERD employ a wired sensor that runs through the patient’s nostril and into the esophagus. This uncomfortable procedure makes it difficult for a patient to eat and behave normally, which is required for accurate testing. The wireless sensor developed over the past three years by the team overcomes those problems, eliminating a patient’s discomfort and producing more accurate medical information.

A series of animal trials conducted last fall confirmed the practicality of a wireless sensor. The team now seeks a partnership to begin human trials and develop a refined, commercially-viable product.

Universal and Cost-effective Surface Texture on Solar Cells
Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Meng Tao and Assistant Professor Weidong Zhou have developed a unique process that should reduce the cost of solar-generated electricity by improving sunlight collection. Their discovery involves microscale silica spheres partially immersed in a spin-on-glass film, resulting in a spherical surface texture. The texture is formed by coatings prepared from solutions, ensuring a low cost.

The spheres form domes that gather sunlight effectively over a wider angle of incidence – in theory, up to 75 degrees. This omni-directional aspect improves the performance of various types of fixed-orientation solar panels, such as those used on roof tops.

Drs. Tao and Zhou have applied for a patent on their process and hope to see commercial applications soon. Their discoveries were tested in small scale in the laboratory, but will require adaptation to a large-scale production and application.

Liquefaction of Texas Lignite to Low-cost Heavy Crude Oil
Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Brian Dennis, Industrial Engineering Professor John Priest and Associate Dean of Engineering Research Dr. Richard Billo have been funded to develop a low-cost process to convert lignite coal into heavy crude oil.

The researchers have had previous success developing processes that lower the cost of synthetic fuel by reducing processing times and increasing yields. Traditional direct-liquefaction processes for producing light crude from coal are expensive, but recent efforts at West Virginia University (WVU) using eastern bituminous coals have shown that heavy crudes are much more economical to achieve. WVU and UT Arlington will work together to convert Texas lignite into heavy crude.

Joining technologies from the two universities, the researchers hope to produce heavy crude at approximately $25 per barrel. Current estimates place 200-year reserves for Texas lignite at current consumption rates. The Texas Ignition Fund grant will help create a demonstration to validate estimates of the quality of the synthetic fuel from lignite and the cost per barrel.

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