2009 News

Near-Term Technology Advances at University of Central Florida could change life as we know it

ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 16, 2009) --- From plug-and-play solar energy panels you'll buy at your local Wal-Mart store to laboratory-grown organs that can replace ailing body parts to intelligent robots that can clear decades-old mine fields without risking human life, a new technology boom is underway at or around the University of Central Florida

Dr. Tom O'Neal, Associate Vice President for Research and Commercialization, asked recently to describe emerging "hot technologies" with near-term potential, said one of the hottest topics today is "clean tech"-- new ways to achieve old ends without taxing the environment.

"Science that furthers sustainable energy policies, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while advancing productivity, that's what gets attention," O'Neal said.

The UCF Research and Commercialization program focuses on practical science with potential for near-term benefits. Petra Solar, a company licensing UCF developed technologies is developing solar panels people can buy at places like Wal-Mart and plug them in themselves, O'Neal said.

"If we can overcome the complex installation and management processes that people have to deal with now, solar energy will become viable on a mass scale, and benefits to the environment and to U.S. energy policy will be enormous," he said.

Wind technology is also in the works, O'Neal said. The Gossamer Wind design conceived by Danny Parker at the Florida Solar Energy Center on the UCF campus has sold more than half a million units nationwide---in the form of ceiling fans that reduce energy costs by as much as one-half and save users an estimated $10 million annually.

Life sciences qualifies as another of O'Neal's "hot tech" picks for 2009.

"Life sciences is about to explode," O'Neal said. "The human genome mapping project will generate innovations we can only imagine today, and some of them will be online within the next few years. They're growing people's organs right now. The field of regenerative medicine will revolutionize health care and have a huge economic impact, and that's one of the driving forces behind the UCF College of Medicine," he said.

Nano sciences---applications of materials measured on a molecular scale---is showing promising results in everything from the treatment of Alzheimer's disease in mice and the efficiency of diesel fuels, O'Neal said.

"Materials interact on a nano scale differently than the way they interact in what we call bulk or big scale quantities," O'Neal said. "Once we master the mechanics of nanotechnology, it will affect almost everything material," he said.

Optics and laser technology being developed by UCF-based companies likewise ranks high among emerging "hot tech" ideas, O'Neal said.

"The defense and weapons applications are amazing in themselves, but so are the domestic applications, from aiding robots to clear mine fields to technologies that can spot criminal activities in crowds, there are many ways optics will improve our lives," O'Neal said.

UCF based companies are also working on ways to make computers literally hundreds of times more efficient with EUV---extreme ultraviolet---lithography that will allow for the printing of finer features on semiconductor chips allowing for more data on the same tiny chip.

Another big area to look at is modeling, simulation, and training, another UCF specialty.

"Simulation and training has been used for years in flight technology because it's so much more cost-effective than training in an expensive aircraft," O'Neal said. "The newest generation of simulated training technology will focus on specialized skills like teaching, law enforcement, and even medicine," he said. "The key is efficiencies of scale. A single program to teach a single teacher, can teach a thousand teachers for just pennies more," he said.    

For more information please contact:
Tom O'Neal. Ph.D, UCF Associate Vice President for Research and Commercialization and Incubation Program Executive Director, 407-882-1120, oneal@mail.ucf.edu;
Larry Vershel or Beth Payan, Larry Vershel Communications 407-644-4142 Lvershelco@aol.com

About the UCF Incubation Program:
Since its founding in 1999, the UCF Incubation Program has helped more than 100 emerging companies (including nearly 70 current clients) create over $500 million in annual revenue and more than 900 new jobs with an average salary of $59,000. With five facilities across the metro Orlando community, the Incubation Program is a collaboration in economic development between UCF, Orange County, the City of Orlando, Seminole County, the City of Winter Springs, and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council.  For more information, please visit http://www.incubator.ucf.edu.