Graphic of lightbulb to emphasize innovation in UCF patents

Story by Robert Wells of UCF Today


UCF continues to be a top university in the world for producing patents, securing 57 patents in calendar year 2023 and ranking 53rd among public and private universities in the world and 21st in the nation among public universities.


The worldwide rankings, released this month from the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), place UCF in a tie with Yale University (57) and ahead of U.S. institutions such as Vanderbilt (56), Princeton (44) and Florida State University (38).


The NAI rankings may be further adjusted as patent corrections are submitted by universities.


This is the 11th year that UCF has ranked in the top 100 universities in the world for patents.


“Innovation is at the heart of our mission at UCF, and these latest patent rankings reaffirm our commitment to pushing boundaries and making impactful advancements,” says Winston V. Schoenfeld, UCF’s interim vice president for research and innovation. “The diverse range of inventions reflects the dedication and ingenuity of our researchers across the research enterprise, and their efforts continue to position UCF as a leader in innovation, both nationally and globally.”


The patents were secured by UCF’s Office of Technology Transfer, which brings discoveries to the marketplace and connects UCF researchers with companies and entrepreneurs to transform innovative ideas into successful products.


Svetlana Shtrom ’08MBA, director of UCF’s Technology Transfer Office, says university patents are a valuable asset for universities, industry and society.


“Patents facilitate transfer of technology from universities and foster collaboration between academia and the private sector,” Shtrom says. “Through collaboration with industry, university technologies provide solutions to pressing problems and create new products and services that benefit the public.”


She says the patents also reflect the commitment of the university’s researchers to innovation, and they serve as a beacon to attract more students and faculty who are interested in cutting-edge research and entrepreneurship.


Here are a few of the UCF inventions that led to patents in 2023:


Passive Insect Surveillance Sensor Device

Lead researcher: Bradley Willenberg, assistant professor, UCF College of Medicine

UCF researchers have developed a low-cost, easy-to-use device for detection of mosquitos and other insects that also indicates whether an insect carries a specific infectious disease. Through simple color-based tests (colorimetric assays) and biomolecular tools for detection (DNA aptamers conjugated to nanoparticles), a user can monitor viral presence in insect saliva samples. By doing so, various mosquito-borne emerging pathogens, including Zika, Dengue, and Chikunguya, can be detected.  The easily deployable technology can potentially help in the global fight and prevention against these deadly diseases. The passive insect surveillance sensor device is available for licensing.


Antiplasmodial Compounds

Lead researcher: Debopam Chakrabarti, professor and molecular microbiology division head, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences


This technology is a method of treatment for malaria by administration of specific fungus-derived compounds. Annually, malaria affects more than 200 million people and kills more than 600,000. Caused by Plasmodium parasites carried in mosquitos, an effective treatment is desperately needed. UCF researchers used a diverse library of fungi found in habitats and ecological niches across the U.S. to find potential antimalarial compounds. The unique chemicals they identified provide starting points for developing lead compounds of new drugs against malaria. The research team is looking for partners to develop the technology further for commercialization of the antiplasmodial compounds.


Coating for Capturing and Killing Viruses on Surfaces

Lead researcher: Suditpa Seal, Pegasus Professor and chair, Department of Materials Science and Engineering


This technology is a nano-coating designed to capture, hold and kill viruses on a surface, such as on personal protective equipment and clothing, using natural light sources to protect against infections.


The COVID-killing coating is made with a nanomaterial that activates under white light, such as sunlight or LED light. As long as the nanomaterial is exposed to a continuous light source, it can regenerate its antiviral properties, creating a self-cleaning effect.


The efficacy of the disinfectant was shown through a study that was published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces this past year. The study found that the coating can not only destroy the COVID-19 virus, but it can also combat the spread of Zika virus, SARS, parainfluenza, rhinovirus and vesicular stomatitis.


Production of Nanoporous Films

Lead researcher: Yang Yang, associate professor, NanoScience Technology Center


UCF researchers have created a method for making metal composite films for use in energy applications, such as for fuel cells, hydrogen production, photocatalysts, sensing and energy storage, and electrodes in supercapacitors. The method improves performance and versatility and does not require use of costly precious metals, such as gold. Instead, the UCF technology uses low-cost, earth-abundant resources such as iron, cobalt and nickel. The nanoporous thin films are designed to help meet today’s challenges in renewable energy production and conversion applications.


Method of Forming High-Throughput 3d Printed Microelectrode Array

Lead researcher: Swaminathan Rajaraman, associate professor, NanoScience Technology Center


This invention is a 3D printed mini-lab that controls liquids and gases very precisely. The device has small channels and chambers that guide liquids, like samples or chemicals, to a central area where there are special electrodes. These electrodes can send and record electrical signals from tiny groups of cells called spheroids. Scientists can use this to see how cells react to different conditions and substances. The innovation offers an easy way to study biological cells, tissues and electrophysiological responses. The technology can help lead to advancements in disease modeling, toxicity assessments and drug discovery.


Adaptive Visual Overlay for Anatomical Simulation

Lead researcher: Greg Welch, Pegasus Professor, AdventHealth Endowed Chair in Healthcare Simulation, College of Nursing


This anatomical simulation allows users to wear a head-mounted display that presents an anatomical scenario onto a patient to allow for medical training, surgical training or other instruction. Users who experience the simulation will see a real body part or other anatomical items projected through an augmented reality system. The innovative, multi-sensory, interactive training system realistically mimics wounds and provides constant, dynamic feedback to medical trainees as they treat wounds. Almost like a video game in real-life, the Tactile-Visual Wound Simulation Unit portrays the look, feel, and even the smell of different types of human wounds (such as a puncture, stab, slice or tear). It also tracks and analyzes a trainee’s treatment responses and provides corrective instructions.


System for Extracting Water from Lunar Regolith and Associated Method

Lead researcher: Phil Metzger ’00MS’05PhD, associate scientist, Florida Space Institute


This invention is a method to extract lunar water that aims to drastically reduce the energy and complexity of lunar mining operations and help to establish the industry. The process consists of robot mining of the regolith (loose, heterogeneous superficial deposits covering solid rock), transferring the mined material to a conveyer, and passing the soil through grinding and crushing stages. Included are mechanisms to sort the material into ice, metals, and other minerals, and final transport and cleanup. This technology allows mining water on the moon, which supports NASA missions, enables further commercial operations in space, and supports Space Force activities.


Inorganic Paint Pigment with Plasmonic Aluminum Reflector Layers and Related Methods

Lead researcher: Debashis Chanda, professor, NanoScience Technology Center


This invention, a plasmonic paint, draws inspiration from butterflies to create the first environmentally friendly, large-scale and multicolor alternative to pigment-based colorants, which can contribute to energy-saving efforts and help reduce global warming.


The plasmonic paint uses nanoscale structural arrangement of colorless materials — aluminum and aluminum oxide — instead of pigments to create colors.


While pigment colorants control light absorption based on the electronic property of the pigment material, hence every color needs a new molecule, structural colorants control the way light is reflected, scattered or absorbed based on the geometrical arrangement of nanostructures.


Such structural colors are environmentally friendly as they only use metals and oxides, unlike pigment-based colors that use artificially synthesized molecules.


The researchers have combined their structural color flakes with a commercial binder to form long-lasting paints of all colors. And because plasmonic paint reflects the entire infrared spectrum, less heat is absorbed by the paint, resulting in the underneath surface staying 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it would if it were covered with standard commercial paint.


Plasmonic paint is also lightweight, a result of the paint’s large area-to-thickness ratio, with full coloration achieved at a paint thickness of only 150 nanometers, making it the lightest paint in the world.


System and Method for Radio Frequency Power Sensing and Scavenging Based on Phonon-electron Coupling in Acoustic Waveguides

Lead researcher: Hakhamanesh Mansoorzare ’21, postdoctoral researcher, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


To meet the growing energy needs of the internet of things (IoT) and wireless communication systems, this new technology is an invention that can convert radio frequency signals into direct current electricity.


The invention harvests ambient energy, specifically radio frequency electromagnetic waves, the most abundant form of communication among IoT nodes and hubs.


The technology can reduce the electronic industry’s reliance on batteries and broaden the expansion of the IoT and its energy needs.


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