RAEng backs potentially game-changing electro-technologies

Posted on 1 Apr 2015 by Jonny Williamson

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s (RAEng) Enterprise Hub has provided funding, mentoring and support to four new technologies developing by engineering entrepreneurs at UK universities.

The electro-technologies include a new class of ultra-thin, ultra-high resolution displays for wearable technologies; plasma implants for glass products to beat fraudsters; a new malaria treatment using blood filtration for difficult cases, including those resistant to drugs, and a personal molecular biology lab for young people and citizen scientists.

The overall winner, Dr Matthew Murray has been awarded the RAEng ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs’ Award, which looks to identify, encourage and reward engineers working with electro-technology in UK universities.

Through the Enterprise Hub, Murray will receive training to help him develop the skills needed to run a successful business; a mentor from the Academy’s Fellowship to provide additional support and advice; membership to a highly valuable peer-support network; invitations to workshops and networking events, and connections to opportunities offered by other organisations via connection to the wider Academy network. 

In addition to membership of the Enterprise Hub, he will also receive a £10,000 personal prize, as well as £30,000 to invest in the continued development of his innovation, Alpin.

Alpin is a patented technology that allows anti-counterfeit plasmas to be implanted into glass, creating a pattern on the surface that can be used to identify individual batches of products in bottles, such as pharmaceuticals, alcohol and perfume.

This has a significant value to the economy, as counterfeit goods are linked not only to a financial loss, but also to significant health risks, particularly in the case of counterfeit drugs.

Arnoud Jullens, head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, commented: “Murray’s plasma technology will help to add another layer of protection against counterfeit products worldwide; an issue of growing importance, particularly in developing countries.”

Professor Sir Richard Brook OBE FREng, chairman of the selection panel, said: “This year’s candidates showcase how far and wide electro-technology can be used to solve contemporary issues.”

Overall winner of the ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award:

Dr Matthew Murray – Advanced anti-counterfeiting implants

Ultramatis | University of Leeds

Dr Murray has developed and patented Ultrafast Laser Plasma Implantation (ULPI) as a novel manufacturing platform with his product, Alpin. ULPI can implant any glass with femtosecond-laser generated plasma – a highly charged and energetic gas, such as one containing optically active elements. This introduces visible or light-activated colouring (e.g. when exposed to UV) to a glass. Applying a mask, analogous to a stencil, ULPI can create a pattern upon the surface, such as a barcode or branding. This may be used as an anti-counterfeiting measure, made unique for an individual batch or product, providing security and authenticity for products such as pharmaceutical, alcohol and perfume bottles. This adds a unique selling point to a product as well as limiting the severe health and financial implications of counterfeiting.

Finalists joining the Enterprise Hub:

Dr George Frodsham – Magnetic Haemofiltration to treat Malaria

MediSieve | University College London

One child dies of malaria every minute. Often, they arrive at hospital too late to be saved. MediSieve uses haemofilter technology, which ‘sieves’ the blood, offering the chance to turn back the clock by rapidly and safely reducing a patient’s parasite burden. MediSieve’s novel technology requires no drugs or chemicals, and can be used to treat any malaria patient, including drug-resistant and other ‘untreatable’ cases, keeping patients alive and symptom-free indefinitely. Used either in isolation or as a stand-alone treatment, the haemofilter removes malaria infected cells directly from the bloodstream in a dialysis-like process. In severe cases, it could reduce mortality and recovery times; in non-severe cases, patients could recover in hours rather than days as the efficacy of drugs is increased and their side-effects eliminated. Following extensive trials, MediSieve products will be commercially available in the next couple of years.

Dr Peiman Hosseini – New materials for wearable technologies

University of Oxford

Wearable technologies are making a big impact in society – beginning to blur the boundary between human and machine. This market is set to be worth $12.6 billion by 2018. The next generation of lightweight, high performance machines will rely on technologies that are capable of bringing the user as close to a device as possible. Dr Hosseini has created the first reported nano-display device that uses both optical and electronic property modulation in Phase Change Materials. An entirely new class of ultra-thin, ultra-high resolution displays with nanosecond access speed and no power consumption in static mode is now under development by his team. This revolutionary display will initially target the rapidly growing microdisplay market compact, projection based displays used in emerging near-eye applications like Google Glass. The first prototypes are currently under development, with a small working device set to be ready within the next 12 months.

Bethan Wolfenden & Philipp Boeing – Personal molecular biology laboratory to boost education and citizen science

University College London

bento•lab is a personal laboratory that will allow anybody to carry out basic genetic experiments from the comfort of their own homes. The toolkit weighs only 3kg, fits on an A4 footprint, and contains all the basic equipment required to carry out research in molecular biology. With bento•lab, Bento Bioworks is making learning and working with molecular biology orders of magnitude more accessible, which has widespread implications for science and engineering education. The aim is to have finished products shipped to customers within a year, allowing them to engage with the topic of genetic engineering and potentially contribute to large-scale research projects. The objective is to create products that enable everyone to work with biology safely, conveniently and creatively.