Available Innovations (A-Z)

Biomarkers of Inflammation in Bruch's Membrane of the Human Retina

Inventor(s)Elizabeth Gaillard, James Dillon


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of visual impairment in older adults. Macular degeneration can make it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life. The invention herein provides for a method of detecting and diagnosing symptoms of immune-mediated processes during aging and AMD by detecting the biomarkers 3-nitrotyrosine and nitro-A2E within human Bruch's membrane. The finding of these biomarkers provides the first clear demonstration of non-enzymatic nitration of proteins and age-related deposits (A2E) within human Bruch's membrane. Either or both biomarkers can be detected using different methods such as a non-invasive fluorescence test or resonance Raman, which is performed with common diagnostic instruments with standard diagnostic techniques. Through the use of these biomarkers and fluorescent patterns, detection of AMD and other diseases such as, but not limited to, cirrhosis, arteriosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease can be made earlier, allowing a patient to seek treatment as soon as possible. These biomarkers enable non-invasive monitoring of the progression of the disease, as well.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Ophthalmology, detection and treatment of AMD and other diseases.


Diseases are detected non-invasively and diagnosed earlier, and treatment efficacy is determined easily

Related Publications

Murdaugh, L.S., Wang, Z., Del Priore, L.V., Dillon, J., Gaillard, E.R. (2010). Age-related accumulation of 3-nitrotyrosine and nitro-A2E in human Bruch&'s membrane. Experimental Eye Research. 90 (5), 564-571.(Available for viewing through Science Direct)

Murdaugh, L.S., Dillon, J., Gaillard, E.R. (2009). Modifications to the basement membrane protein laminin using glycolaldehyde and A2E: A model for aging in Bruch’s membrane. Experimental Eye Research. 89 (2), 187-192. (Available for viewing through Science Direct)

Status: Patent Pending

Catalyst-Free Synthetic Approach for Large-Scale Producing Boron Nitride

Inventor(s): Narayan Hosmane, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Amartya Chakrabarti; Shena M. Peter


Hexagonal boron nitride nanosheets have electronic properties that make them highly desirable. However, boron nitride nanostructures are less investigated than graphene or other nanosheets due to difficulties encountered during their production.

The most common technique of large-scale nanomaterial production is usually a top-down process of mechanical or chemical exfoliation of bulk boron nitride into nanosheets. The disadvantage of this process is that it introduces extensive defects in the surface structure. Another approach, chemical vapor deposition, yields nanostructures with minimal defects. This process is commercially less desirable because of the requirement of a substrate and extreme reaction conditions.

Hosmane and his team have developed a catalyst-free methodology to prepare few-layer hexagonal boron nitride nanosheets using a bottom-up process. This method has shown to produce less than ten layers of nanosheets with a uniform dimension. The crystallinity and purity of the product have been proven through various techniques.


This catalyst-free method can be scaled up for industrial purposes. There is a lower temperature requirement than more common techniques and involves simple purification processes, making it more cost effective.

Potential Commercial Use and User

Boron in electronics industry, polymer composites and coatings.

Related Publications

Joshua J. Demuth, Synthesis and Characterization of Hexagonal Boron Nitride Nanosheets, Poster.

Status: US Patent Nos. US 10,236,122 & 10,892,044, “Boron Nitride and Method of Producing Boron Nitride,” and “Connected Medical Devices,” granted March 18, 2019 and January 12, 2021, respectively.

Chemical Doping for Highly Stable Perovskite Solar Cells

Inventor(s): Tao Xu, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Metal halide perovskites have found great application in photovoltaics for a variety of qualities. These qualities include solution processability, low cost of material precursors, and ease of device manufacture. Methylammonium lead iodide represents an excellent light absorber that garners much attention for its high photovoltaic performance. However, it suffers from lead toxicity, device hysteresis, and degradation in humidity, oxidation, photo and other stress factors.

Xu and his team have discovered that by doping the lattice, the chemical stability of perovskite can be enhanced while achieving comparable power conversion efficiency. This method also exhibits a promising way to enhanced device stability by mitigating the chemical interaction between iodide and the silver counter electrode. This method could open a new reign of chemical resistance in hybrid lead iodide perovskite with extended photovoltaic longevity and formidable device performance.


High stability.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Perovskite solar cells.

Status: US Patent No. 10,388,898, “Doped Perovskite Having Improved Stability, and Solar Cells Made Thereof,” granted August 20, 2019. Provisional filed.

Conductive Emulsion for Preparing Surface for Powder Coating

Inventor(s): C.T. Lin


The present invention provides an environmentally friendly conductive sol-gel emulsion for surface treatment of low-conductivity objects. The emulsion renders the object amenable to powder coating or other treatments that require the surface of an object to be conductive. The sol-gel creates a transparent and high abrasion resistant silicate film on a relative soft substrate (wood or plastics) via hydrolysis and polycondensation reaction.

Potential Commercial Uses and Users

Powder coating industry – on non-conductive substrates such as wood (MDF) and plastics.


The emulsion of the present invention is based on a “green chemistry” approach to formulate an environmentally friendly, aqueous (solvent-free) conductive sol-gel emulsion for surface treatment of low-conductivity surfaces. The film created by the conductive emulsion adheres extremely well to the surface of the object and provides the following beneficial characteristics: good wetting of the substrate, creates a uniformly conductive surface for evenly attracting powder particles and a smooth and hard film highly resistant to scratches.

Status: Patent No. 7,015,280
Patent No. 7,534,831
Patent No. 7,749,607
Crystalline Graphene and Method of Making Crystalline Graphene

Inventor(s): Amartya Chakrabarti; Narayan Hosmane, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Graphene has exceptional electronic properties and high mechanical strength, providing widespread application in the field of sensors, nanoelectronics, composites, hydrogen storage, lithium-ion batteries, and even medicine as antibacterial materials. Because graphene can be manufactured incredibly thin—just one atom thick—graphene is on its way to replacing silicon in many applications.

Graphene can make mobile phones work in places they were once unable, make almost any electronic device run faster, with less energy, and power devices that can see inside the human body without harmful x-rays. Due to the diverse technological application of graphene, facile routes to produce graphene in high yields are in great demand.

Until now, graphene has been synthesized using hazardous chemicals and tedious techniques. The current process usually begins with graphite, exfoliating graphite by oxidation, then graphite oxide, followed by reduction. The disadvantages of this processes are that the product produced is of low crystallinity and introduces extensive defects into each layer of graphene.

Hosmane and his team have perfected a method for manufacturing a crystalline form of graphene in high volumes. This method is simple, green, and cost-effective: burning magnesium in dry ice. In addition, this method can create ultra-thin sheets of graphene.

Related Publications

Amartya Chakrabarti, et. Al., (2011) “Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Few-Layer Graphene,” J. Mater. Chem., 21, 9491. DOI: 10.1039/C1JM11227A.

Status: US Patent No. 9,340,430, “Crystalline Graphene and Method of Making Crystalline Graphene,” issued May 17, 2016. Equivalent patents have been issued in France, Germany, United Kingdom, and India.

Design and Synthesis of Novel Inhibitors of Isoprenoid Biosynthesis

Inventor(s): Timothy Hagen, Zhen Zhang, Zachary Lazowski, Michael Clare, Darren Begley

The fight against malaria, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases is growing more difficult due to the emergence of drug resistant forms of these diseases. Recent studies have shown that bacterial and parasitic organisms, like those involved in malaria and tuberculosis, use a methylerythritol isoprenoid (MEP) biosynthetic pathway to produce isoprenoids.  Isoprenoids found in living organisms are the basic building blocks of many essential substances and range in function from pigmentation, fragrances, vitamin production and precursors of sex hormones. Humans do not use the MEP pathway process; therefore any foreign pathogen in the human body that uses the MEP pathway can be targeted by recognizing enzymes (specifically IspF) associated with MEP. 

This invention is a series of synthetic compounds designed to inhibit the enzyme IspF present in the MEP pathway. Compounds from this series will lead to improved drugs and other treatments for infectious diseases such as malaria and a range of bacterial infections

Status: Patent Pending

Electrochromic Device Having Three-Dimensional Electrodes

Inventor: Tao Xu

Electrochromism is the phenomenon displayed by some materials of reversibly changing color when a burst of electrical charge is applied.  Electrochromic (EC) devices have been attracting widely-spread attention as they can be used as smart windows and electronic displays. In particular, recent research and development progress in organic and polymer electrochromic materials exhibiting different voltage-dependent colors makes EC devices a strong candidate for displays found on cellphones, eReaders, and the like.

Current methods of electrochromic display technology often suffer from limited charge diffusion due to the thickness of the docking layer, a porous layer to which the semiconductor material is adhered. The limited diffusion significantly impedes the switching speed of the electrochromic display and breaks down the active electrochromic material, thus deteriorating the lifetime of the device.  This invention replaces the semiconductive docking layer with a conductive layer, dramatically improving the response time and reduces the driving voltage of the EC device.

Status: US Patent No. 9,405,164 and 10,281,791, “Electrochromic device having three-dimensional electrode,” were granted August 2, 2016 and May 7, 2019, respectively

Tao Xu

Tao Xu

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Electronic Pillow/Headrest for Abating Snoring/Environmental Noises, Hands-Free Communications, and Non-Invasive Sleep Monitoring Recording

Inventor(s): Sen-Maw Kuo


The electronic pillow/headrest technology offers active noise control of unwanted noises by microphone detection of such noise, analysis of the unwanted noise, and production of corresponding anti-noise to the unwanted noise via speakers, thereby abating the unwanted noise. The pillow/headrest technology also offers a method of hands-free communication by sending and receiving sound waves in connection with a phone interface. An additional feature includes the recording and monitoring of sleep disorders, by recording noises produced by a sleeper with microphones encased in the pillow.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Portable pillow model use by frequent travelers, hospitals, sleep clinics, or at home for the comfort of "snore-annoyed" sleep partners. Fixed headrest use by private and public transportation manufacturers, furniture manufacturers, hospital beds.


This unique pillow/headrest offers many features and possesses much versatility. The technology can either be produced as a custom-sized comfortable pillow or as a permanent fixture in headboards or headrests. The wide variety of features include self contained systems for unwanted noise abatement (including snoring), and capabilities for integration with other devices such as a cell phone for hands-free communication and/or hospital equipment to record and monitor patient's vitals.

Related Publications

Sen M. Kuo and Dennis R. Morgan, Active Noise Control Systems- Algorithms and DSP Implementations, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, 1996.

Sen M. Kuo and Dennis R. Morgan, "Active Noise Control," Chapter 49 in Springer Handbook of Speech Processing and Speech Communications, Edited by J. Benestry, Y.Huang, and M. Sondhi, pp. 1001-1017, Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2008

Sen M. Kuo, Sreeram R. Chakravarthy, Rakesh Gireddy, and Abhijit Gupta, "Experiment of Active Snore Noise Control Systems," Noise Control Engineering Journal, vol. 56, no. 1, Jan-Feb., 2008, pp. 16-24.

Status: US Patent No. 8,325,934, “Electronic pillow for abating snoring/environmental noises, hands-free communications, and non-invasive monitoring and recording,” was granted on December 4, 2012

Fingermark Lifting and On-the-Spot Visualization Devices

Inventors: Oliver Hofstetter, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Andrei Mlakar, Claude Roux, Xanthe Spindler, Chris Lennard


Common fingermark detection methods such as powder dusting and cyanoacrylate fuming are well-established and effective on simple low background substrates. However, highly reflective, patterned, or luminescent backgrounds pose a problem for capturing clear images of enhanced fingermarks. These techniques also leave behind signs of their application, making them unsuitable for covert detection during intelligence and counterterrorism operations. 

Hofstetter and his team have developed a cost-effective and user-friendly device that allows lifting and instantaneous visualization of fingermarks in one step.

Advantages: The invention is easy to use, enables rapid fingermark detection in the field, and does not leave any trace. Furthermore, no additional reagent or special equipment is required.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Standard police work at crime scenes and forensic laboratories. Counterterrorism and covert operations.

Status: US Utility Patent No. 10,866,188, “Fingermark Lifting and Visualization Device and Methods of Use Therof,” was issued December 15, 2020.

General Doping Approach for Fast and Stabilized Metal Anodes

Inventor(s): Yingwen Cheng, Assistant Professor, Chemistry; Tao Xu, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Haiping Xu


Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly used in electric vehicles and other electronics. However, they have limited energy density and high cost, making them unsuitable for energy storage in large-scale applications. Hence, there is an urgent need for a higher energy alternative. Metal anodes have great potential for high-energy batteries, but they pose serious safety and reliability challenges due to their high chemical reactivity.

Xu and his team at NIU discovered a method that addresses the reactivity issues and delivers better stability. By doping lithium metal with trace amounts of silver or aluminum, the metal increased the preferred facet orientation and significantly increased its stability and reactivity.

Even after being exposed to dry air for months, the doped lithium remained shiny with no degradation in electrochemical activity. This approach can be readily scaled when combined with the promising development of advanced electrolytes, providing a viable approach to stabilizing the lithium metal anode.

Xu's method fundamentally alters and allows the control of the physicochemical properties of lithium, opening new and promising opportunities for the design of practical lithium metal batteries.


Significant increase in the service life of rechargeable metal-anode based batteries.

Potential Commercial Use and User

Energy storage—where high energy density rechargeable batteries are desired. Electric vehicles, consumable electronics, and smart grids.

Status: US Utility Patent Application No. 16,386,162, “Doped Lithium Anode, Battery Having a Doped Lithium Anode, and Methods of Use Thereof,” was filed on April 16, 2019.

Highly Efficient Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Using Microtextured Electron Collecting Anode and Nanoporous and Interdigitated Hole Collecting Cathode and Method for Making Same

Inventor(s): Tao Xu


Nanocrystalline dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) are an appealing device for solar-electric energy conversion for its low cost, simple process, and large-scale production. This invention and method for manufacturing radically alters the nature of the electron transport in traditional TiO2 nanoparticle-based DSSC, from semiconducting to metallic conducting, instead of the traditional method of affecting the electron diffusion length through changing shapes of the semiconducting anode. This strategy erects free-standing metallic pillars on transparent conducting oxide (TCO) glass via electrochemical deposition methods. The pillars or microantennas serve as shortcuts and fast lanes for electron transport from nanoparticles to the TCO anode; in a manner analogous to an antenna that collects radio signals. Besides dye-loading, a key to the higher efficiency is the miroantenna pillar shape when arranged in arrays which decreases electron migration distance.

Potential commercial use and users: Solar cells


Significantly boosts electron harvest in conventional semiconducting nanocrystalline DSSC; doubles the efficiency of other DSSCs while maintaining commercial feasibility

Related Publications

Enhanced Electron Transport in Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Using Short ZnO Nanotips on A Rough Metal Anode. Yang, Z.; Xu, T.; Yasuo, I.; Welp, U.; Kwok, W. K. (2009) J. Phys. Chem. C, 113: 20521-20526.  

Status: US Patent No. 9,129,751, “Highly efficient dye-sensitized solar cells using microtextured electron collecting anode and nanoporous and interdigitated hole collecting cathode and method for making same,” was granted on September 8, 2015.

Hydrogen Gas Sensor

Inventor(s): Zhili Xiao


This hydrogen gas sensor is comprised of a porous substrate having a novel nanowire network of a palladium (Pd) composition deposited thereon. The nanowire networks are created by depositing desired Pd composition on porous substrates with widths of the sections between holes less than 20 nm. When the hydrogen sensor is exposed to an environment, the resistivity of the Pd nanowire changes based on the presence of hydrogen in the environment. The hydrogen sensor can transmit the amount of hydrogen detected to a display, to a computer data processor, or transmitted to a program to perform a certain operation upon the detection of hydrogen.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Safety sensors in hydrogen powered cars; lead (Pb) acid batteries; personnel monitors and other places where hydrogen is present and requires detection


These novel nanowire networks have the advantages of individual nanowires and nanocluster chains but without the associated high fabrication cost. Several types of palladium compositions can be used for the ultra-small nanowires and nanoclusters. The porous substrates can be commercially available filtration membranes (preferable) or they can be manufactured as desired. The porous substrate adds potential for flexibility of sensors if needed. The deposition of the Pd composition can be performed with any thin-film deposition technique known in the art, for example, sputtering, thermal evaporation, or electron-beam evaporation.  The nanowires can be as-prepared or annealed at high temperatures up to 800 degrees Celsius in various gas environments.The ultra-small (<20 nm) thicknesses and widths of the nanowires which form the network reduce the hydrogen diffusion time, resulting in a short response time of the sensor. The hydrogen response time of these networks can be as low as tens of milliseconds. Thin-film deposition techniques can be utilized to deposit the Pd and other Pd compositions for forming the nanowire networks which have the advantage of single nanowires, leading to cost-effective fabrication of the sensor.  The sensor is more reliable because it consists of many conducting paths in parallel.  Thus, this hydrogen sensor is a high speed sensor that is able to work at room temperature, is inexpensive and also can be small size and low power consumption.  

Status: Patent pending

Related Publications

Hydrogen Gas Sensing with Networks of Ultrasmall Palladium Nanowires Formed on Filtration Membranes, X. Q. Zeng, M. L. Latimer, Z. L. Xiao, S. Panuganti, U. Welp, W. K. Kwok, T. Xu. Nano Letters 2011 11 (1), 262-268.   (Available for viewing here (ACS subscription required))

Laser Assisted Machining for Ceramic and Hard Materials

Inventors: Frederico Sciammarella, Joseph Santner, Stefan Kyselica 

The Technology

An estimated 70% of the costs of precision structural ceramic parts are directly due to the current manufacturing methods used to obtain critical part dimensions and features. Currently diamond grinding is used to manufacture parts requiring superior surface quality and final dimensional tolerances of parts per million. Laser assisted machining reduces this cost by increasing material removal rates and eliminating grinding tooling changes and costs. This technology employs multiple laser beams under computer control. Prior approaches to laser assisted machining produced very simple parts having a simple shapes. Employing multiple laser beams under computer control allows the operator to more effectively control the distribution of the thermal energy and thereby provides additional processing freedom to improve the material removal rates.

The Science Behind the Technology

Primary Academic Discipline: Engineering

A multi-beam fiber laser system is integrated with a 5-axis machining center providing an improved method for laser assisted machining of precision parts. The system utilizes a computer to develop interrelated heating and machining plans, from a variety of input data describing the material to be machined, the properties of lasers and pyrometers used for heating the material, computer models of the machining arrangement, workpiece, and final part to be produced.  An iterative process continues until the machining and heating plans result in the heated region of the workpiece being maintained at a desired temperature while also maintaining the cutting tool at desired temperature.

Status: Patent Pending

Easy Machining of Hard Materials®

See the process in action

Additional information about the inventors and their technology

View Dr. Sciammarella's department page

Library-Based Method to Introduce pH-Sensitive Binding into Protein Interactions

Inventor(s): James Horn, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Many drug discovery, drug development, and drug delivery projects would benefit from the ability to control and manipulate the molecular recognition capabilities of protons.

The technology created by Horn at NIU allows binding between human proteins following a pH shift by facilitating various binding interactions between human proteins and their environment without affecting residues critical to the binding mechanism. The pH-dependent reactions are created by saturating ionizable residues onto a protein interface. To ensure that wild-type binding affinity is preserved with the addition of residues, phage display libraries are used to screen for maximum residue incorporation.

Potential commercial use and users: This process is suitable for modulating any number of biomolecular interactions for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes. Users can employ this method in protein-protein, protein-DNA, protein-Small Molecule, and protein-cell interactions.


The binding affinity is responsive to tiny changes in pH level, making it much more sensitive than the innate pH dependence of protein interactions. Many different protein interactions can be used because this method can be adapted to other ionizable residues (e.g., acidic aspartic acid and glutamic acid, basic lysine and arginine, and histidine.) Histidine acts as a metal bonding site and a protein bonding site, making it useful for metal-sensitive and pH-sensitive interactions.

Related Publications

Horn, et al., Structure and energetics of protein-protein interactions: the role of conformational heterogeneity in OMTKY3 binding to serine proteases (Aug. 8, 2003), J. Mol. Biol. 331, 497-508. DOI: 10.1016/s0022-2836(03)00783-6.

Status: US Patent No. 9,902,948 and No. 10,927,368 “Library-Based Methods and Compositions for Introducing Molecular Switch Functionality into Protein Affinity Reagents,” issued February 27, 2018 and February 23. 2021, respectively.

Low-Cost, High Work Function Metals as Cathode for Perovskite Solar Cells

Inventor(s): Tao Xu, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Tao Xu has invented a device to reduce the cost of materials in a highly efficient photovoltaic device, perovskite solar cells. This device typically requires the use of noble metals such as gold as the cathode. Xu’s invention replaces these higher cost metals with low-cost metals such as nickel and cobalt for the cathode in perovskite solar cells. This invention is a low-cost way to manufacture high-efficiency perovskite solar cells.


Cost reduction without sacrificing device performance.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Companies focused on perovskite solar cell development.

Related Publications

Qinglong Jiang, et al., Rutile TiO2 nanowire-based perovskite solar cells, 50 ChemComm (Sept. 18, 2014), 14720. DOI: 10.1039/c4cc07367c.

Qinglong Jiang, et al., Nickel-Cathoded Perovskite Solar Cells, 45 J. Physical Chemistry (Oct. 22, 2014), 25878-25883. DOI: 10.1021/jp506991x.

Status: US Patent No. 10,586,659, “Perovskite Photovoltaic Device,” issued March 10, 2020. A continuation is pending.

International Application Pub. No. WO 2016/163985, “Perovskite Photovoltaic Device,” published October 13, 2016.

Non-Invasive Diagnosis of Diabetes Through the Eye

Inventor(s): Elizabeth Gaillard, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Devi Kalyan Karumanchi


Elizabeth Gaillard has developed a non-invasive method for diagnosing individuals with diabetes by looking at the crystalline lens during an ocular examination. There are currently several methods used for diabetes diagnosis. A widely used test, the A1C, measures average blood glucose in the body over a 3-month space. Blood glucose varies, depending on meals, exercise, sickness, and stress. Research has shown that the lifetime of red blood cells of diabetics is shorter than non-diabetics. This variability is a major disadvantage for diagnosing the patients in their early stages of diabetes.

The ocular lens is an avascular, dense matrix of closely packed proteins which do not turnover. By screening the changes in the lens proteins, Gaillard was able to identify non-invasive spectroscopic biomarkers for the early diagnosis of diabetes.


Diabetes treatment and related complications cost $250 billion worldwide. By diagnosing diabetes at a very early stage, patients could delay the effects of the disease and decrease the cost of their treatment. Additionally, this invention is time efficient. It takes less than 20 seconds to acquire quantifiable, precise results with this invention.

Related Publications

Devi Kalyan, et al., Early Diagnosis of Diabetes through the Eye, 6 Photochemistry and Photobiology, (Aug. 27, 2015), 1497-1504. DOI: 10.1111/php.12524.

Status: US Patent No. 10,512,402, “Non-invasive Occular Biomarkers for Early Diagnosis of Diseases,” was granted on December 24, 2019. A continuation is pending.

Oxadiazole and Phenol Derivatives as Antibacterial or Herbicidal Agents

Inventor(s): Timothy Hagen, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Michael Thompson, Jeremy R. Troxell, Brian Hartnett


Antimicrobial resistance is rising rapidly, and continued market growth is predicted for Antibacterial drugs. The methylerythritol phosphate, or MEP pathway, has recently gained attention as a prime target for discovering new anti-infective agents. This is because it is present in bacteria and not mammals, reducing the chances of off-target interactions leading to side effects.

Timothy Hagen and his team identified a new class of antibacterial agents with herbicidal and antimalarial properties through the inhibition of germination. These compounds can be developed into more potent IspD and IspE inhibitors that may be used as antibiotic drugs.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

The compounds can be utilized in the antibacterial preparations in the pharmaceuticals industry or as anti-bacterial coatings.

Status: US Patent No. 11,026,426, “Oxadiazole and Phenol Derivatives as Antibacterial and/or Herbicidal Agents,” granted June 8, 2021.

Programmable Paper Diagnostic Devices

Inventor(s): Korampally Venumadhav, Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering; Kevin Dosteth; Yashodeep Patil


It is critical to control the amount of reagent delivered to the reaction zone, incubation time, and the multiple pashing steps in a pre-programmed manner for complex biological tests. There is significant interest in the development of zero-cost diagnostic devices that require no external power sources. However, until now, no technique enabled accurate control of the flow of fluids through paper networks.

Venumadhav and his team discovered a method of implementing microfluidic paper-based switches that enable automation of complex biological tests without formal education or training to use the device effectively.

Current methods for diagnostic applications use patterned paper devices. Examples of patterned paper diagnostic devices include wax printing and plasma-based approaches. These methods involve restricting fluid through specific hydrophilic channels. Due to their passive nature, current methods are limited to few, if not one, biological tests, and they are often qualitative or semi-quantitative.

Although active switches in paper-based diagnostic devices have been used, these techniques require external power sources that add cost and complexity to the device's manufacture and operation. Venumadhav and his team at NIU invented a device that combines active switches and traditional paper-based microfluidic networks. These switches are powered entirely by gravity, capillarity, and elastic energy. This invention pushes state of the art in making paper diagnostic devices more amendable towards a host of biological tests while keeping the cost low.

Additionally, each component of the microfluidic device structure may be separated and later integrated into the final planar system, making this approach highly flexible easily scalable.


Low-cost, flexible, and scalable manufacture of diagnostic devices that performs complex biological tests with few resources and minimal user involvement. Rapid test time, no external power sources required for operation/timing, minimal external user interference for device performance.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Bed-side diagnostic tests, like pregnancy test strips, expanded to include a host of other biologically relevant analytes. Diagnostic tests in resource-poor locations (military deployment, developing nations, etc.) Food and water safety in the food industry, etc.

Status: US Patent Application No. 16,423,735, "Programmable Paper Based Diagnostics," pending, filed on May 28, 2019.

Sensor for Detecting Compounds

Inventor(s): C.T. Lin 


The present invention relates to a sol-gel sensor capable of a color change via a charge-transfer mechanism upon detection of a chemical and surface contaminant. This invention also provides a decontaminant that cleanses the air and/or surface area by capturing the compound without creating toxic byproducts. The sensors are capable of being affixed to any surface. For example, they can be stuck on a person’s shirt or included in a coating on the surface of an object such as a vehicle. 

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), waste management, metal industries, military, Homeland Security, first responders.


Portable, immediate colorimetric (color change), upon exposure to contaminant compounds, highly sensitive, can be used by non-technical personnel and can be attached to clothing of soldier or any other surface, such as tanks or other vehicles. 

Status: Patent No. 8,545,762

Superior Hexagonal Materials for Gas Separation and Oxygen Storage

Inventor(s): Bogdan Dabrowski, Steven Remsen


Ceramic materials have been increasingly researched due to their unique properties of reversible oxygen storage/release capacities (OSC) at elevated-temperatures. The formula of this novel ceramic material consists of transition metal elements that are bi-pyramidal-coordinated to oxygen and rare earth ions, when combined behave like an “oxygen sponge”. Just as a sponge can absorb and release water under different pressures, these materials can absorb and release oxygen when exposed to different temperatures or gases. This property enables novel separation of the major components of air in the atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen, by storing the oxygen in the ceramic materials and leaving nitrogen in the atmosphere.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Oxygen production by thermal swing absorption for oxy-fuel “clean coal” power plants; automotive exhaust catalysts; H2-O2 fuel cells; solar water splitting methods; steel, copper, and plastic production and other industrial production processes which require high-purity oxygen and have large amounts of waste heat. Chemical-looping by oxygen pressure swing absorption for efficient and pollutant-free combustion and fuels reforming.


The novel hexagonal ceramic materials selectively absorb and release oxygen with near 100% selectivity while not absorbing other gases. Unlike other oxygen storage materials, which depend on the creation of oxygen ion vacancies at high-temperatures, this system rely on phase change due to oxygen filling/discharge of the interstitial sites. Material has been shown to have higher OSC than current commercial ceramic materials, while operating at lower temperatures and with a smaller necessary temperature gradient as well as exhibits faster oxygen absorption/desorption rates compared to the prior art. Material is also stable under highly reducing conditions of H2 and CO. 

Status: Patent No. 8,980,213 
Continuation patent application pending

Bogdan Dabrowski

Bogdan Dabrowski

Department of Physics

System to Simulate Virtual Competition Among Various Heterogenous Devices

Inventor(s): Benedito Fonseca, Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering and Jim Shulgan


Benedito Fonseca and Jim Shulgan have created an educational system that allows students to participate and compete in a fun virtual competition while practicing electrical engineering concepts. Students experiment and learn how to design electric circuits and algorithms in firmware while participating in a virtual autonomous car racing competition (or other virtual competitions.

A computer simulates a virtual autonomous car race. The system would then send signals to a device that students build. Each student designs a circuit to treat the incoming signals, designs an algorithm within a microcontroller that treats the incoming information, and designs a circuit to generate command signals to the system. Based on the received commands, the system changes the state (position, velocity, acceleration, and others) of each car in real-time.

The invention is a system that enables multiple heterogeneous devices to receive and generate signals that are used to control virtual representation in a computer simulation.

This technology may have both a hardware and educational software component.


This system enables a fun competition by using a single commercial PC and allowing the students to experience electric circuits and firmware design.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

The use of this invention is educational. The university can supply the Computer and Concentrator Device to control a virtual competition among students. This invention could be licensed by video game companies in the educational market.

Status: A prototype was built between December 2019 to January 2020. No US patent applications covering this technology and confidentiality agreements may be required for student teams who wish to work on this technology.

Therapeutic Uses of Glutathione Mimics

Inventor(s): Elizabeth Gaillard, James Dillon


The glutathione mimic prodrug is used to administer phosphorylated derivatives as antioxidants for disease prevention and treatment. Targeted diseases include ocular disorders, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, general aging, and arterial ischemic stroke, various types of cancers, asthma, sickle cell disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, among many others. Glutathione mimics are also effective as radiation protectors allowing healthy tissue to be spared radiation damage during cancer treatment.

Potential Commercial Use and Users

Pharmaceutical companies, veterinary clinics


Glutathione mimic prodrugs are more effective than currently available pharmaceutical products with the elimination of unwanted metabolism, and are virtually non-toxic because they are natural product derivatives. The prodrugs target specific cells or tissues for therapeutic purposes and allow for much higher doses of radiation to be used in radiation therapy treatment due to the enhanced protective effect to healthy tissue. The compounds can be administered orally, subcutaneously or parenterally and can be administered alone or as an active ingredient in combination with pharmaceutically acceptable carriers, diluents, adjuvants and vehicles. The compounds are effective for all warm-blooded animals, in particular mammals, including humans.

Status: US Patent No. 9,629,857, “Therapeutic Uses of Glutathione Mimics,” was granted on April, 25, 2017

Ultra-Rapid Tissue Cryopreservation Method and Apparatus

Inventor(s): James Benson

The successful cryopreservation of tissues is of immense importance to a vast array of medical, agricultural, and scientific applications. There is a pressing need for reliable cryopreservation of many tissue types including articular cartilage, kidney, liver, and many more. Cryopreservation of these tissues would facilitate donations that individuals give for their own use when undergoing induced procedures, and would greatly facilitate banking, testing, and donor host matching for transplantation from individuals of the same species. Well cryopreserved tissues also pose considerable advantages over chemically preserved tissues for histological and pathological testing. In particular, they retain most biological functions and as such provide an additional avenue for functional as well as histological testing.

NIU’s invention is a device and method for processing tissues during ultra-rapid cryopreservation.  The cooling and warming protocols are designed so that a careful optimal balance of these effects may be achieved so that deleterious ice formation is eliminated. This apparatus utilizes two cooling blocks, cooled by circulating cryogenic liquid, to cool and hermetically seal a tissue sample in a thin layer of metal.  This is achieved by pressing the cooling blocks with variable pressure so that the sample, which is sandwiched between two thin metal layers, comes into contact with both blocks for a sufficient amount of time for equilibrium temperatures to be reached. The pressing also causes the metal layers to crimp forming a hermetic seal around the tissue sample. The blocks may additionally be warmed to provide thawing of the sample for examination. It would be used as an improved method for cryopreservation of tissues with reductions in cryoprotectant chemical use and ice formation.

Present state of the art yields very limited recovery after thawing for most tissue types. This limited recovery is due, in part, to the maximal cooling and warming rates achievable by the cryopreservation method or system. Low cooling and warming rates allow for the formation of intra - and inter-cellular ice that is widely believed to be irreversibly damaging to cells and tissues. This is ameliorated in part by the addition of chemical protectants, but the concentrations needed to allow for ice-avoidance at low cooling rates is toxic to cells and tissues. High pressure is known to reduce ice formation in tissues, but can also cause structural or other damage to tissues. High concentrations of cryoprotectant chemicals are also known to reduce ice formation in tissues, but can cause cytotoxic effects and structural damage to cells and tissues. 

Status: Patent Pending

James Benson

Mathematical Sciences

Wireless Communication Integrated Active Noise Control System for Infants

Inventor(s): Lichuan Liu, Professor, Electrical Engineering; Sen Maw Kuo


Lichuan Liu invented a device that can recognize and categorize different types of cries from infants.

The device utilizes an intelligent, active noise control (ANC) algorithm to recognize and distinguish infant cries. The cries can be categorized into four sub-groups: pain, attention, hunger, and the need for cleaning.

To comfort the infant, the desired speech signal, such as the mother's voice, is played to the infant through the anti-noise loudspeaker inside the incubator. Likewise, the infant's audio signals, such as crying, breathing, and cooing, will be picked up by the internal microphone and played to the parents.

Related Publications

K. Kuo, “Feature Extraction and Recognition of Infant Cries,” 2010 IEE International Conference on Electro/Information Technology, 2010, pp. 1-5.

Chuan-Yu Chang & Jia-Jing Li, Application of deep learning for recognizing infant cries, 2016 IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics-Taiwan (May 27-29, 2016). DOI: 10.1109/ICCE-TW.2016.7520947.

L. Liu & S. M. Kuo, Wireless communication integrated active noise control system for infant incubators, 2013 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (May 26-31, 2013). DOI: 10.1109/ICASSP.2013.6637672.

Status: US Patent No. 9,247,346; 9,542,924; and 9,858,915, “Apparatus, system and method for noise cancellation and communication for incubators and related devices,” were granted January 26, 2016, January 10, 2017 and January 02, 2018, respectively.