ASU proves its patent prowess with global ranking

June 16, 2015

Michael Kozicki is no stranger to patents.

The Arizona State University professor – who has 50 here in the U.S. and about 30 foreign equivalents – has had so many significant patents that he was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in March. Michael Kozicki dendritic metal electrodes A dendritic electrode is shown growing on the surface of a silicon wafer. Michael Kozicki found that the easily grown, lacy dendritic metal electrodes can be used in photovoltaics such as solar panels, where normal electrodes end up blocking part of the light they’re supposed to gather. (The black area in the image is a probe needle, used to form the dendrite and also to connect to it in the lab for testing.) Photo by: Minghan Ren Download Full Image

That was no easy feat, he said.

“You have to be an evil genius, basically,” said Kozicki, who is with the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “You have to have invented a battery or stolen a planet.”

Though neither evil nor kleptomaniacal, ASU is no stranger to patents, either.

A new report from the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association ranks ASU among the top 50 international universities for the number of patents issued to its researchers in 2014.  ASU’s 48 patents granted that year tied it for 44th, just ahead of Duke University.

One of the patents awarded that year went to Kozicki’s dendritic metal electrodes. He had been studying the growth of dendrites, which are constantly branching patterns that grow easily.

“They look really like trees,” he said. “We realized that they have some utility as electrodes because they could be grown on a substrate, on a device. They are fine enough that they can let light through but can still gather electrical impulse.”

That means they can be used in photovoltaics like solar panels, where normal electrodes end up blocking part of the light they’re supposed to gather. Kozicki’s dendrites are transparent enough that they gather the solar impulse without blocking any of it.

He wasn’t surprised at ASU’s making the patent list.

“ASU continually does really well in these kinds of polls…,” Kozicki said. “To get where we are on these lists is actually pretty spectacular.”

The ranking reflects the ASU’s dedication to use-inspired research and building innovative technologies that contribute to our communities.

“The granting of 48 utility patents continues to demonstrate that our faculty and students are on the frontiers of science and at the forefront of developing new and meaningful technologies that extend to Arizona and beyond,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.

“As a rapidly growing research enterprise, these patents recognize the uniqueness of the work performed at ASU and the direct societal impact it has on the nation at large.”

Making a difference in the world is part of what drove Jeffrey La Belle to create a diabetic-monitoring device. The traditional way to monitor blood glucose involves finger pricks up to eight times a day, a painful requirement that makes it difficult for diabetics to comply. La Belle’s device uses tear fluid instead.

“A student and I were trying to come up with a tear glucose sensor that was simple and practical back in 2009,” said Jeffrey La Belle, an assistant professor in the School of Biological Health and Systems Engineering; the Harrington Biomedical Engineering Program; and the Biodesign Institute.

They created a disposable device that promises to greatly reduce pain. It was awarded a patent in 2014 – a five-year stretch that is a fairly typical timeframe for patents. It takes much more time and money to achieve than a publication.

“In a patent, there are many steps and stages, dealing with the IP (Intellectual Property) office, lawyers, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, lots more to it than most people would realize,” La Belle said.

Stephen Albert Johnston said it took three meetings with patent examiners for his immunosignatures to get through the patent process.

The co-director of the Center for Innovations in Medicine at the Biodesign Institute and professor in the School of Life Sciences wanted to invent something that would allow people to monitor their health on a regular basis and detect diseases early.

After many unsuccessful attempts, he finally came up with the idea of immunosignatures, in which a drop of blood or saliva is diluted and applied to a special chip. The chip is washed, and the only thing that sticks to it is antibodies, which give a reading of a person’s health status.

Those antibodies can change, and Johnston’s team is in the process of defining the antibody parameters for a number of diseases. They’ve looked at 45 so far.

He and Neal Woodbury, an ASU professor of biochemistry and chemistry and co-director of the Center for Innovations in Medicine, have spun immunosignatures into a company, HealthTell, which is focused on detecting cancer early and which is in a second round of fundraising.

But their research portfolio here at ASU is largely driven the interests of those who submit blood samples to be tested. And it doesn’t have to involve humans.

“Maybe a quarter of the people use it for dogs,” Johnston said. “(But) we’ve never done cats.”

The patent-ranking report is based on data obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association compile the rankings each year by calculating the number of utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office which list a university as the first assignee on the printed patent. Find the complete list here.

Penny Walker

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Hands-on summer institute challenges students to blend tech, art

June 17, 2015

The assignment was simple enough, but the task would be daunting for most people: Take random household items and turn them into musical instruments.

Armed with a piece of paper, a pencil, wires, alligator clips and a "Makey Makey" kit, 15-year-old Spencer Pote created a graphite piano (similar to this) within 10 minutes and started composing music. group of students watching instructor construct small electronic instrument High school junior Angelina Longoria, from Flagstaff, checks the conductivity and sound as she begins constructing a small electronic piano at the ASU Digital Culture Summer Institute. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” said Pote, who knows how to play percussion, piano and flute and will be a sophomore at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. He is also a participant in the inaugural Digital Culture Summer Institute at ASU’s Tempe campus.

The three-week program, which began June 8, is sponsored through the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The summer institute challenges incoming high school freshmen through just-graduated seniors in a series of short, project-focused modules ranging from producing digital music to computational imaging to programming and projection mapping.

The institute blends artistic and technical skills and attempts to turn students' interests into a possible vocation, according to Loren Olsen, an assistant clinical professor at ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering who is also an instructor at the institute.

“We want to give students a taste of the many ways that computers are used in creative activity,” Olsen said. “They are really enthusiastic but some in very narrow ways. They’ve been exposed to animation in movies, video games and music, but we want to show them how it’s done so that maybe one day they might consider it as a career.”

Angelina Longoria, who traveled from northern Arizona to attend the institute, said she’s interested in pursuing a musical career. She already knows how to play the guitar but on June 16, she was able to expand her repoirtoire in a class called Experimental Musical Instruments.

“It’s the first time I have ever experimented with these sounds,” said Longoria, a junior at Coconino High School in Flagstaff. “I like how they are giving us free rein. Our only limit is our imagination.”

Sam Jones, who will be a junior at Mesa’s Heritage Academy, sat alongside Pote and Longoria for the Experimental Musical Instruments class. His passion is film; he said he has already edited about 20 short films. He enrolled in the institute to make him a better all-around filmmaker, and music plays an important role in mastering the craft.

“I made a silent movie about a year ago, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because the music had to fit the beats of the film,” Jones said. “What I’ve found is that this institute is more than developing your skills; it’s about developing your own work ethic and discovering your creativity.”

In addition to Experimental Musical Instruments, other classes include How to Code, Interactive Media, Digital Fabrication, Video Production, Animation, Unity for Games, Projection Mapping and Computational Photography.

The Digital Culture Summer Institute runs through June 26.

Digital Culture Program 2015 - Tempe from Arizona State University on Vimeo.

Reporter , ASU Now