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New Projects Include Video Walkie-Talkie and Technology to Quiet Cooling Fans

San Diego, July 18, 2003 -- The William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement has awarded $300,000 in “gap” funding to six projects led by faculty at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering. This is the third round of funding, bringing the total to 19 projects financed since the Center was set up in 2001 to provide funding to internal technology projects that have strong commercial potential, and to foster entrepreneurism education on the campus.

A record number of faculty – 25 in all – submitted full applications for project funding by the May deadline. “The strong response to this round of funding shows that the von Liebig Center and its support for technology commercialization has become an integral component of the Jacobs School,” said Rick LeFaivre, Executive Director of the Center. “Although we could only make an additional six cash awards, our staff and consultants will now work with the other faculty to develop commercialization strategies for their technologies and, if possible, help them secure other types of funding for their projects.”

Applicants went through a rigorous screening mechanism and their proposals were reviewed by an external committee of industry experts in the various disciplines.

Of the six grants, two went to faculty in both the Bioengineering and the Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, with one each in Structural Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The projects detailed below include inventions that range from a way to make quieter cooling fans on computers, ventilation units and the like, to a wireless video-enabled Walkie-Talkie and a new method to help detect infectious agents in the event of a bioterrorist attack. “Our reviewers emphasized the quality of the proposals they saw in this solicitation,” noted LeFaivre. “We want to thank everyone who participated in this program and we wish all of the applicants the best as they seek to commercialize their technologies.”

For more information on the von Liebig Center, visit, call (858) 822-5960 or email For information previous awardees, go to

Media Contact:
    Doug Ramsey (858) 822-5825

Third Round of von Liebig Grants by Department:

David Gough, Professor
Expansion of UCSD Pattern Recognition Methodology for Prediction of Biological Interactions

Dr. Gough and his colleague, Dr. Joel Bock, have applied for a patent on a new pattern recognition methodology that would speed up the process of detecting possible interactions among millions of proteins and inferring their biological functions. The methodology is for predicting protein-protein interactions, and employs an algorithm that can be trained to recognize interactions in a limited set of known interaction pairs. The algorithm can then be applied to a larger set of proteins of unknown interactions to predict interactions with quantifiable accuracy. This method has been applied successfully to proteins of several different organisms based on training information available on the web. The method has major advantages in predictive capability and computational economy over other approaches, and is a disruptive technology. The von Liebig grant will allow the team to (1) expand the application of this technology to protein-protein interactions in a broader range of organisms, and (2) explore its application to predict interactions between other types of biomolecules. These studies will solidify the foundation of the UCSD intellectual property and may lead to other inventions.

Michael Heller, Professor
“Electric Field Induced Fluctuation of Quantum Dot and Fluorescent Quencher Probes for High Sensitivity Genotyping, Gene Expression and Infectious Agent Detection”
Efforts to detect infectious agents and other bioterrorism threats are stymied by the ongoing difficulty of doing rapid genetic identification and eliminating the need for the time-consuming (and expensive) step common to all current methods: amplification of the DNA/RNA target through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Professor Heller is proposing a novel electric field mechanism by which a combination of a fluorescent nanoparticle (quantum dot) and quencher fluorophore can used to detect very low levels of target DNA/RNA sequences in complex samples. The proposal involves the development of pairs of fluorescent nanoparticles (i.e., quantum dots) and fluorescent quencher probes which can selectively hybridize to a target DNA sequence. As part of a new process, Dr. Heller’s team will apply an oscillating electric field (DC or AC) to the sample which causes the fluorescent nanoparticle and quencher probe combination that is hybridized to the target DNA sequence to produce an oscillating fluorescent response. This oscillating fluorescent system can now be easily detected even among thousands of non-specifically bound fluorescent particles. The endpoints of this research will be to optimize the performance of selected donor/quencher pairs prior to commercialization, and Heller says it is likely, given that the experimental design has been finalized, that this technology will be ready for market in less than one year.

Truong Nguyen, Professor
“Video Walkie-Talkie Appliance”
The combination of new mobile communication standards (3G) and advances in wireless, PDA and networking technologies is creating opportunities for wireless multimedia access. But current multimedia standards such as MPEG-4, H.264 and H.324 are not designed for mobile devices, and the current default codec for image transmission – JPEG – is not ideal for wireless because it does not take advantage of temporal redundancy using motion estimation and prediction. The result: the decoded image is degraded significantly. As part of this project, Professor Nguyen will develop the prototype of an efficient video codec for wireless multimedia that uses the latest models of mobile phones and PDA with built-in cameras, color screens, etc. This Walkie-Talkie appliance will incorporate Dr. Nguyen’s latest research on real-time video coding algorithms as well as decoding enhancement algorithms. He expects that the prototype will attract sponsors including service providers, consumer electronics companies, chip manufacturers, mobile phone and PDA manufacturers.

Paul Yu, Professor and Chair
“Electro-optic Waveguide Modulation using Inner Step Barrier Quantum Wells and Peripheral Coupled Waveguide”
As new generations of optical networks take shape thanks to advances in fiber-optics technology, engineers must also develop new devices that will keep pace with those advances. To facilitate the modulation, switching and detection of optical signals at high speed, Professor Yu favors device concepts that allow massive integration of semiconductor waveguide components on the same substrate. Under this project, Dr. Yu’s team will develop two technologies -- multifunction waveguide modulators and photodetectors -- using inner stepbarrier quantum well (IQW) and peripheral coupled waveguide (PCW) technologies. The goal will be to bring them to manufacturable stage, with the vision of developing efficient electro-optic modulation components based upon semiconductor materials and processing technology using the new approaches. Yu anticipates a broad application of these technologies in the next generation of optical networks.

Raymond de Callafon, Professor
“Active Noise Control of Cooling Fans: Applications to Air Ventilation, Data Projectors and Computer Systems”
Forced airflow cooling is required in many industrial and electronic systems, including computers, data projectors and air ventilation systems, creating an audible noise. For low frequencies in particular, reducing the noise emission may require a large amount of ‘passive’ sound absorption material. Professor de Callafon believes that a good solution to deal with the noise problem is active noise control (ANC) – canceling sound by either a controlled emission of a secondary opposite (out-of-phase) sound signal, or controlling the absorption and boundary conditions of insulation material. ANC hardware and algorithms for a fan by itself would be commercially not realistic, as this would increase the cost of the fan. However, integration of the ANC in a system as a whole is not only cost effective but also significantly better for the control of sound. The implementation of ANC is complex due to the (unknown) dynamic and spatial relationships between noise source and noise cancellation objectives. However, with the growing availability of efficient transducers (microphones), data processing algorithms can be used to estimate and characterize the dynamic sound propagation to optimize the development of noise cancellation algorithms. The primary goal of this project is to show proof of concept for ANC in various commercial systems and to address the complexities in ANC by developing new data based modeling and control strategies for active sound cancellation. This project will demonstrate proof of concept for various systems and the technology for ANC in these systems will provides new technical developments and material for patents.

Francesco Lanza di Scalea, Associate Professor
Apparatus for the Inspection of Pipes and Tubes
The safe operation of oil, power generation, and chemical processing plants requires screening of their pipes to ensure that there are no unacceptable levels of corrosion. Since a significant portion of industrial pipes are insulated, this means that even external corrosion cannot be detected by visual inspection without the removal of the insulation, which can be prohibitively expensive. A quick and reliable method for the detection of corrosion, which does not require the removal of the insulation, is therefore required. Professor Lanza di Scalea is developing an apparatus for the inspection of long lengths (hundreds of feet) of pipes and tubes -- only requiring access to one end and without requiring insulation removal. The system will operate by long-range ultrasonic guided waves that will be reflected by corroded areas providing a means for the detection and classification of the corrosion.

Von Liebig Center executive director Rick LeFaivre talks about the gap funding program and outlook. Length: 2:01

LeFaivre discusses why gap funding is attractive for the Jacobs School as a tool for recruiting -- and faculty retention. Length: 00:48

LeFaivre explains the von Liebig Center's educational mandate and focus on 'entrepreneurism.' Length: 1:41

Von Liebig Center managing director Abi Barrow talks about working with faculty -- and the response to date. Length: 2:03

Barrow discusses what reviewers look for in winning proposals, and talks about two of the latest awards. Length: 1:14

***All videos require Real Player, to download click here.***

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