Speed i Projects – project details

Cambridge Nanosystems, Jerome Jouag [i-Teams Easter 2012]
Cambridge Nanosystems Ltd. is a spin-out company from the Department of Material Science of the University. The initial development plan has been established during and after the i-Teams project “Replacing copper by Carbon” during the Easter term (2012).

Cambridge Nanosystems is developing a new process called “floating catalyst method” to produce Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs). It consists in producing CNTs directly in the gas phase instead of on a substrate. This new process can dramatically reduce production costs as well as synthesising pure CNT samples without any need of post-synthesis treatment (already achieved in the Lab). CNTs can then be used in composite materials for instance but also in plenty of other applications (ultra capacitors, solar panels, micro electronics etc…). Our first targeted market is copper composite. Mixing CNTs with copper can significantly improve conductivity, tensile strength and reduce weight, making copper much more efficient.

AQDOT, Jing Zhang & Dr. Roger Coulston [i-Teams Michaelmas 2011]
Microencapsulation is currently a multi-billion-a-year industry with established applications in food, cosmetics, drug delivery, diagnostics, and electronic displays. The current unmet consumer demand is to produce inexpensive capsules that allow for triggered release of a cargo. This is a critical industry challenge over the next decades. AQDOT has developed an innovative platform technology to produce microcapsules with greatly simplified manufacturing procedure and unprecedented ability to actively and passively release fragrances, enzymes, cells, and other high value materials. We are currently building a prototype for the consumer products industry that will act as a demonstrator for the many other possible applications.

Raspberry Pi, Jack Lang [i-Teams 2009 & 2010]
The low-cost computer designed to encourage children to learn about programming, now shipping close to 100,000 units a month!

Water purification catalyst, Mario Cordero [i-Teams Michaelmas 2012]
Sunlight can degrade pollutants in water with a suitable catalyst. Current solutions exist, with the most common catalyst being Titanium dioxide particles. These have the advantage of working with sunlight, with no need for an external power source, so the pollutant removal can take place off-grid and is cheap to operate. It is also a low-tech approach – simply mix the particles into the polluted water, expose to sunlight and wait. However, the currently-available catalysts only exploit the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, resulting in a slow degradation process which is slowed further by cloudy weather conditions.
A team of researchers from the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy have developed a new sunlight-activated catalyst which is active in the visible range of the spectrum. This means that its reaction speed is 10-100x as fast as that of catalysts like titanium dioxide, since more of the sunlight’s energy is used. It can also work in low light conditions including cloudy weather and indoors (using ambient sunlight and/or artificial light).

Chromatix, Ipshita Mandal [i-Teams Michaelmas 2012]
The biopharmaceutical industry is growing rapidly, currently standing at a market capitalisation of over $140bn, and growing at 15-18% per year. With the increase in demand for biopharmaceuticals, there are key process limitations in biomanufacturing. Optimised production in bioreactors has led to high yields (>10g/L of antibody-producing cells for example). However, this has increased demand for high capacity and throughput in the downstream purification processes. Currently the downstream processes account for 50-60% of the total production costs of such molecules. Major limitations in current technologies include fouling, high cost and slow processing times to achieve the required separation resolutions.

Researchers at the Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology have developed and patented a novel Micro-Capillary Film (MCF) manufactured from polymer materials, and are now investigating its application in different areas of purification of biologicals – spanning biopharmaceutical drugs (antibodies and proteins) and cell populations. The new matrix material provides regular microporous micro-capillaries, whose size can be varied at time of manufacture. The porous nature of the surface gives approximately 10,000 times higher protein binding when compared to non-porous matrices.

Compared to the current commercial systems used for protein separation, the new technology is comparable in capacity, with the added advantages of being lower cost, and able to operate at higher flow rates and pressures whilst maintaining separation resolution. The differences may enable not just improvements to existing systems, but may allow an entirely new approach to some applications, such as the development of single-use disposable cell separators for use in cell therapies, and systems that can be used easily without the need for specialist operators.

StroMoHab – Advanced and Affordable Stroke Mobility Rehabilitation, Dr. Adar Pelah [i-Teams Lent 2007]
StroMoHab is an advanced motion capture and visualisation platform that significantly improves treatment outcomes and diagnostics in gait-impairing conditions including stroke, the largest single cause of disability. Asuuta Ltd is a newly formed university spinout company developing an international business to commercialise StroMoHab that provides medical rehabilitation solutions and cloud-based diagnostic services. Based on fundamental research and development by Dr Pelah and his colleagues, the system presents the patient with motivating biofeedback in real time, which assists recovery through neuroplasticity as the patient performs (and corrects) natural interactive activities tailored to their abilities, whilst providing the clinician with accurate metrics and advanced analytics for assessing the patient’s condition and rate of recovery over the course of a treatment programme

Memsbio, Dr. Thanos Mitrelias [i-Teams Lent 2013]
The Thin Film Magnetism (TFM) group in the Cavendish have been working with a research team from Koc University, one of the leading Universities in Turkey, a collaboration which has now resulted in a Turkish spinout company called MEMSBIO.

The team have developed a new sensing and excitation mechanism for MEMS-based micro-cantilevers, using optical sensing with a laser diode and excitation via magnetic fields. This means that the micro cantilevers can be manufactured using a single-layer MEMS process, which is lower cost than currently-used techniques. A further benefit is the extreme simplicity of the sensing unit, which requires no electrical or physical connections between the cantilevers and the reader. This means that the micro-cantilevers can be built into a compact, disposable cartridge, and a droplet of the liquid sample placed on top. The cartridge can then be inserted into a small hand-held reader, in much the same way as insulin meters are used today.

The first commercial application of the system is to measure the viscosity of blood, with the idea that a hand-held reader can be used by the world’s 10 million warfarin patients for self-monitoring of their blood to ensure they are receiving the correct dose of the blood-thinning drug.

Cavendish Nanotherapeutics, Dr. Thanos Mitrelias
Cavendish NanoTherapeutics (CNT) offers advanced treatment systems aimed at the targeted eradication of cancer tumours. CNT’s proprietary systems are based on magnetic nanotechnology and utilize nanoparticles loaded with anticancer drugs, guided towards the tumour site to selectively destroy it in conjunction with electromagnetic excitation.

Clinical trials have demonstrated significant effects in the reduction of tumour size and a 50% – 300% increase in the survival rates of patients with various cancers. Trials have demonstrated a tripling in the survival rates of patients with stage IIIA lung cancer, when the treatment protocol is applied in conjunction with traditional therapies.

Integrated Materials Technology, Roger Ford
A small UK Company with a long involvement in the Composite Industry, including extended periods of collaboration with ICI and BASF, is looking for one or more individuals who would like to take on the management of a new venture that aims to disrupt the market for lightweight structural materials. The development of novel second-generation thermoplastic composites, which should deliver major energy savings and contribute significantly to the achievement of future climate change targets, has reached a critical stage. The ultimate goal is to develop these new composite materials as a replacement for steel in the automotive industry, as well as to use them in aerospace. The team will need to complete the development work and drive through a successful strategy for commercialising the new materials.

Biosensor start-up, Sherden Timmons [an i-Teams alumni]
Our team is developing a biosensor with many possible applications. In the short term we have a low-cost laboratory analytical device that can be used in a bio-science or electronic engineering setting. For the longer term we’re developing a receptor-based in vitro diagnostic device that will deliver quick results at the point of care with sensitivity and specificity approaching that of PCR. Initial results with influenza look promising, but this platform technology could be applied to the detection of many pathogens. Our challenge is to build deeper market understanding and weigh up our opportunities.