MSU Innovation of the Year Award

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April 24, 2015

MSU Innovation Center recognizes Richard Lunt with Innovation of Year Award 

From clear solar cells (to be used as windows on cars, buildings and more) to ag drones to beer brewed with craft-roasted Michigan chestnuts, the Innovation Celebration showcases some of the latest technologies and startups from students and faculty at Michigan State University.  

The MSU Innovation Center recognized the MSU Innovator of the Year and two Innovations of the Year during ceremonies April 23. Awardees were commended for their perseverance and creativity and were presented with plaques and cash prize.PhD student Yimu Zhao assists Richard Lunt in his research on transparent solar panels -- which received a 2015 MSU Innovation of the Year Award.

“To create something new, it requires an incredible amount of labor, perseverance and creativity. The innovation, invention and research created at MSU are something that needs to be shared with the World,” said Charles Hasemann, assistant vice president for Innovation & Economic Development at Michigan State University and MSU Innovation Center executive director. “The process of bringing technologies to market is a long road filled with trial and error, but we provide the necessary resources and support to make this possible for both MSU faculty and students.”

A 2015 Innovation of the Year Award was presented to Richard Lunt, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science in the MSU College of Engineering, for his development of transparent photovoltaics.

The award description said: Transparent solar concentrators can be deployed on existing infrastructure to discretely harvest solar energy. Former attempts at transparent photovoltaics have fallen short, coloring or dimming the light that passed through them. Now, new solar materials can be installed on nearly any transparent surface without affecting the incoming light.  Small organic molecules within the concentrator can be tuned to absorb only non-visible wavelengths, allowing natural visible light to pass through. Solar power is converted to electricity by thin photovoltaics strips. This technology is a flexible and inconspicuous means of harvesting solar energy that can be integrated onto building windows and mobile electronic displays.

See the YouTube Video (2:32 minutes):

The second 2015 MSU Innovation of the Year Award went to Merlin Bruening, professor in the Department of Chemistry.

The award description said: The technology Bruening conducted research on is a method of rapidly and elegantly generating a high density of functionalized membranes at controlled pH. These membranes are useful for an array of applications related to protein purification. The membrane generation process is easily implemented, scalable, inexpensive, and yields membranes with markedly improved surface areas. Increased surface area corresponds directly with an improved overall protein binding capacity of the membrane. All of these qualities combined make this an incredibly powerful tool for academic research and industry for the study and isolation of protein biotherapeutics.

The Innovator of the Year was given to Alvin Smucker, professor of Soil Biophysics in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Smucker’s research focuses on water retention of soils, particularly the application of subsurface water retention technologies (SWRT). Drawing on decades of research on plant root systems, Smucker filed seven invention disclosures with MSU since 1981, earning three patents to-date. His innovative method of improving water retention, especially for sandy soils in arid regions, reduces irrigation demands, and boosts the efficacy of traditional agricultural practices.


Story courtesy of the MSU Innovation Center.