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Updated 10:00 AM October 31, 2005




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Celebrate Invention 2005 inspires collaboration

Imagine that the braking energy used to slow and stop a bicycle could be stored and used to propel it.
Timothy Smith, left, a research fellow in aerospace engineering, asks Bikehub project partner and student Jason Moore a question about his creation during Celebrate Invention 2005 Oct. 26 in the Michigan League Ballroom. The device stores energy used to slow and stop the bike, which can be used to propel it. (Photo by Lin Jones, U-M Photo Services)

Consider that sores that may lead to foot or leg amputations in diabetics can be diminished by a shoe insole that creates a sliding action to reduce shear force.

These are among the ideas brought to fruition by U-M researchers who made a technology disclosure, were awarded a patent or participated in a license agreement in fiscal year 2005 through the Office of Technology Transfer.

These products and others were the focus of the annual Celebrate Invention event, which drew more than 300 people for an Oct. 26 reception in the Michigan League Ballroom.

Mark Maynard, marketing manager for Tech Transfer, says this year's event likely was the most successful in five years.

"I just had a faculty member in my office saying it was an electric event with a lot of energy and faculty members talking about how to work together in the future, which is what we're after," he says.

Celebrate Invention spotlights the best and brightest researchers and showcases examples of existing U-M technologies poised to make a difference in society. Inventors and concept developers staffed booths and chatted with academic and business professionals.

Undergraduate engineering student Frank Maurer, who helped develop the Bikehub, and fellow engineering undergrad Jason Moore, who is working on a second generation version that will further compact the hydraulic mechanism that stores energy, answered questions almost non-stop during the two-hour event.

"I think it will make some impact," says Frank Zhong, a graduate student in applied physics. He joined a group looking at the bike, which features black hydraulic tubing running from an oversized front hub to a cylindrical tank stored horizontally above the rear wheel.

A piston pushes air within the fluid-filled tank. "This pressure is the potential energy that propels the bike," Maurer explains. The energy can be released by pushing a launch button, to propel the rider up to 20 mph.

The project is supported by a grant from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Project partners are seeking a patent for the device, which they say can be retrofitted to any bike.

At a nearby booth, Peethambaran Ammanath, a certified orthotist at the U-M Health System Orthotics and Prosthetics Center, held up a layered shoe insole; neon fuscia on the top and beige on the bottom. "These insoles are made from multiple density material with a sliding and rolling motion at the distal part of the foot which makes it unique for diabetic patients who could potentially develop foot ulcers," he explains.

The soft insoles absorb shock during walking. While the product has its greatest impact for diabetics, it also can be used to avoid foot sores for hikers, golfers, runners and basketball players.

One project on display adopted a seasonal theme. Draped in a Halloween ghost costume was an automated camera—which through motion-sensing technology travels along a suspended wire to follow a walking professor delivering a lecture. The device eliminates the need for a human camera operator.

Other inventions and technology advances on display included an all-in-one portable bathroom environment for the disabled, a presentation on the Michigan Solar Car, a healing foods pyramid, and multifunctional organic and inorganic nanocomposites for coatings and thin film technologies.

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