New Inventions

Novel Catalysts for Improved Remediation of Sulfur-Containing Pollutants

A professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has developed a versatile suite of iron-based catalysts with the potential to promote rapid, efficient oxidation of deleterious sulfur-containing compounds present in crude oil, natural gas, and/or aqueous waste streams. With these novel catalysts, there is no need for corrosive base, elevated temperatures, expensive or dangerous oxidants, or high pressures.
(Aug 20, 2019) T190005WO01

Health Monitoring and Imaging System for Concrete Structures

An assistant professor in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in partnership with an electrical engineer from New Mexico State University, has developed a comprehensive monitoring system capable of identifying interior defects and stress in concrete structures such as bridges. By combining sensor technology with an ultrasound signal generator, multi-channel data acquisition and proprietary data processing algorithms, the interior conditions in any cross section of a bridge can be visualized in 3D. With this technology, small stress changes in the order of 0.1Mpa and cracks as thin as a human hair are detected. Such a combined system provides competitive advantage over existing methods that solely measure stress changes and rely on installation of strain gauges on the surface or inside concrete structures. These methods only provide for measurement of stress changes at the locations where sensors are placed, creating gaps in the evaluation of stress change. In addition, with current technology, holes must be drilled and patched for sensor placement and bridges must be taken out of service during testing. The proposed technology provides for a more absolute evaluation of not only changes in stress but also identification of cracks, does not require drilling of holes and can be used on in-service bridges, saving time, money and providing a more comprehensive assessment of bridge health.
(Jul 29, 2019) T180044WO01

Production of Medium-Chain Fatty Acids from Biorefinery Residue

UW–Madison researchers led by Profs. Daniel Noguera and Timothy Donohue have developed a method for converting unreacted chemical components in stillage to valuable medium-chain fatty acids, such as hexanoic and octanoic acids, using a mixture of microbes (e.g., anaerobic microbiome).

Operationally, a portion of the stillage stream is separated and fed to a bioreactor containing the mixture of microbes, which transforms a fraction of the stillage to MCFAs. The other fraction of the stillage can be sent on to the anaerobic digester to generate electricity (similar to existing biorefineries).
(May 10, 2019) P170271US04

Carbon Nanotube Vacuum Field Emission Transistor Design for Large-Scale Manufacturing

Inventors from the Department of Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville have created novel transistors by incorporating etched carbon nanotubes into a planar design that is compatible with existing fabrication techniques. In previous studies by others, aligned carbon nanotube transistors have been demonstrated to achieve saturation current that is 1.9 times higher than those that are silicon-based, at an equivalent charge density. In the optimal embodiment of this invention, carbon nanotubes are aligned and feature precise gaps that act as channels to allow the efficient transport of electrons without the need for a vacuum. The anticipated output of this approach will be nanoscale transistors that resist heat and radiation and operate at low voltage and high frequency. To address current challenges with large-scale VFET manufacturing, this technology offers three advantages – the carbon nanotubes can be prefabricated using methods that are already in place, the selective etching process for creating electron channels uses conventional integrated circuit techniques, and the planar design can integrate with existing wafer-based manufacturing methods.
(Apr 16, 2019) T170007US02

Porous Silicon Nanomembranes for the Rapid Separation of Macromolecules by Size and Shape

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville have developed a unique nanomembrane for the separation of biomolecules based on their three-dimensional geometries. These “macromolecular sieves” are produced from laser-etched silicon nanomembranes. The pores in these membranes have openings in the sub-micron range but are designed to significantly reduce the flow impedance of the filtered solution. This design feature allows for faster filtration time when compared with traditional membranes. Nanomembranes with square and rectangular geometries have been produced. Desirable characteristics of the square opening membrane include a high open area of 45% and low standard deviation in opening size (less than 5%). Additionally, the fabricated membranes have been tested with vacuum pumps and show no signs of damage after repeated filtrations with 15 psi of applied pressure differential. Currently, reducing opening size below 100 nm and introducing openings of varying geometries is under development. Further efforts are also underway to decrease the manufacture time and increase the overall scalability of the membrane patterning process.
(Apr 11, 2019) T180038WO01

New Hormone Analogs for Treating Hypoparathyroidism

UW–Madison researchers have developed backbone-modified analogs of PTH(1-34). The analogs exhibit advantageous properties; they are biased toward Gs activation/cAMP production relative to β arrestin recruitment.

The analogs were generated via an unconventional strategy in which the backbone of a natural PTHR-1 agonist was altered, rather than the side-chain complement. More specifically, selected α-amino acid residues were systemically replaced with either β-amino acid residues or with unnatural D-stereoisomer α-amino acid residues.

The researchers have shown that backbone-modification can rapidly identify potent agonists with divergent receptor-state selectivity patterns relative to a prototype peptide.
(Aug 22, 2018) P180053US02

Enzymatic Depolymerization of Lignin

UW–Madison researchers provide the first demonstration of an in vitro enzymatic system that can recycle NAD+ and GSH while releasing aromatic monomers from natural and engineered lignin oligomers, as well as model compounds composed of similar chemical building blocks. Nearly 10 percent of beta-ether units were cleaved when the system was tested on actual lignin samples.

The relevant enzymes include dehydrogenases, β-etherases and glutathione lyases. In an exemplary version, the system uses the known LigD, LigN, LigE and LigF enzymes from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6. A newly discovered heterodimeric β-aryl etherase (BaeA) can be used in addition to or instead of LigE.
(Aug 14, 2018) P170274US02

Soybeans with Increased Resistance to Sclerotinia Stem Rot and Drought Tolerance

UW–Madison researchers have demonstrated that knocking down expression of a specific soybean respiratory burst oxidase homolog protein (GmRBOH-VI) leads to enhanced resistance to S. sclerotiorum and confers drought tolerance.

Using protein sequence similarity searches, the researchers identified seventeen GmRBOHs and studied their contribution to Sclerotinia disease development, drought tolerance and nodulation. Transcript analysis of all seventeen GmRBOHs revealed that out of the six identified groups, group VI (GmRBOH-VI) was specifically and drastically induced following S. sclerotiorum challenge. Virus-induced gene silencing of GMRBOH-VI resulted in enhanced resistance to the fungus and, coincidently, drought stress.

Based on these discoveries, the researchers have developed modified soybeans and production methods available for licensing.
(Jul 31, 2018) P170294US03

High Yield Method to Produce HMF from Fructose

UW–Madison researchers have discovered that a solvent system comprising water and a polar aprotic solvent (e.g., acetone) is ideally suited for converting C6 carbohydrates into HMF at reasonably low temperatures (such as 120°C), low acid concentration and at very high yields and efficiencies.

The C6 carbohydrate used in the method can be derived from any source including biomass (processed or unprocessed), cellulose and lignocellulosic sources, etc. The nature of the C6 carbohydrate is not critical to the method, although fructose is preferred.
(Jul 31, 2018) P180329US01

Recyclable Catalyst for Lower Cost Production of Fermentable Sugars and High Value Chemicals from Biomass

An assistant professor in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and former senior research scientist at the Montana State University Bio-Energy Center have developed a technology that reduces the processing cost and time to fractionate lignocellulose into fermentable sugars. The technology is centered on the use of a catalyst linked to a magnetic bead, which replaces the need for acids and enzymes in the pretreatment step of the production process. Because of its magnetic properties, the catalyst can easily be recovered from the reaction mixture and reused multiple times. It is also capable of functioning under cellulose loads as high as 50%, whereas loads for competing solid acid catalysts have been typically limited to less than 15%. The end result is a process that makes better use of carbon-neutral biomass by lowering production costs and increasing yield of desirable monomer sugars and high value chemical compounds such as vanillin, phenol, acetophenone.
(Jul 24, 2018) T170034US02