Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Warf News & Media

Technology Monitor: Science meets sports, a prototype takes shape, and more

Person holding a basketball running insideWARF Accelerator speeds the development of technologies with exceptional potential for commercial success. With targeted funding and expert advice from seasoned business mentors known as Catalysts, WARF Accelerator helps inventors develop their technologies and advance to the marketplace. The latest developments:


Sports science: Could a wristband or other wearable device one day be used by doctors or athletes to avert tendon injuries and test performance? A team led by Darryl Thelen (mechanical engineering) has shown that ‘wave speed’ in tendons can be measured with a noninvasive, wearable sensor system and used to infer the tension in tissue. Now, they look to develop a system suitable for a wide variety of tendons and able to collect data in real time. Thelen’s group has met with UW Athletics staff as well as physical therapists, athletic trainers and strength coaches of an NBA team to discuss the potential for this kind of testing of high‐level athletes, with an eye towards injury prevention and assessment of recovery.


Drive design: A project led by Bulent Sarlioglu (engineering) looks to prototype a new motor drive (also called an inverter or motor control) that reduces risk of bearing failures due to undesired voltage known as common mode voltage, while at the same time boosting efficiency and reducing bulk. Applications range from hybrid/electric vehicles to aircraft and vessels, all keen on mitigating electromagnetic interference (EMI). Sarlioglu’s team has simulated the proposed motor drive design. Upcoming milestones include analysis of the competitive landscape and prototype construction.


Meat alternatives: The meat alternatives market is more active than ever before and competitors are constantly emerging. But like meat, retaining an appetizing red/pink color is key to consumer demand. Mark Richards and Sofia Erazo (animal sciences) are investigating a unique ingredient – clover hemoglobin – to help keep products looking delectable under commercial display conditions. Erazo is working with D2P on campus to conduct market research, and the team is working to build partnerships with food manufacturers. Next steps include scaling up hemoglobin production and sensory testing.


Value chains: Brian Pfleger (chemical & biological engineering) and team are currently optimizing a process to produce oleochemicals from renewable feedstocks. Oleochemicals are a class of chemicals used in a variety of products from detergents and personal care products to bioplastics. Current routes for producing these chemicals (via processing of natural fats and oils or using petrochemicals) are not meeting demand. Pfleger’s group is working to harness the power of genetically engineered microorganisms capable of producing relevant quantities of medium chain fatty alcohols, free fatty acids, polyesters and methyl ketones. These are valuable commodities – more than 1.3 million tons of fatty alcohols are used worldwide each year, representing a $3 billion market.