UTPA awarded $44,000 grant from The U.T. System's Texas Ignition Fund
Posted: 01/20/2010
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The University of Texas-Pan American has received a $44,000 award from The University of Texas System to go toward the commercialization of a discovery by Dr. Yuankun Lin that provides a more precise, simpler and cheaper fabrication method for photonic crystals used in semiconductors.

The award is among $374,000 in grants announced Jan. 12 that were presented to eight UT System institutions from the Texas Ignition Fund (TIF). The fund was created by the UT System Board of Regents in 2007 to help speed the commercialization of discoveries made at campus laboratories and move them into the marketplace. This is the fifth round of projects that have received funding from the TIF.

Dr. Yuankun Lin (left), associate professor in the Department of Physics and Geology, is pictured working with students in his research lab at UTPA. The $44,000 TIF grant will go toward the commercialization of Lin's discovery of a cheaper fabrication method for photonic crystals used in semiconductors.
Lin, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Geology, has a patent pending for the fabrication of a two-layer integrated Phase Mask to create three dimensional photonic crystals.

"Lin's invention is important because it is highly conducive to mass production and chip-scale integration of 3-D photonic structures. Currently microchips utilize electrons to send and calculate information, but the need for speed means circuitry has to get smaller and smaller to the nanoscale level," said Kial Gramley, market research analyst in UTPA's Office of Innovation and Intellectual Property. "Photonic crystals have immense potential as electron-based integrated circuitry reaches the barrier of physics and technology begins to veer toward the use of optical photons that travel at much higher rates than electrons."

The TIF fund was authorized to address the challenge that research discoveries and inventions at UT institutions often require additional funding to develop product applications that can attract investor capital to achieve their commercial potential. TIF funds are used primarily for personnel, equipment, supplies, instrument use fees, market analyses and business plans.

"External grants that I have received before usually support basic scientific research toward new discovery. However, the TIF grant allows me to do prototype development and market research toward commercialization of the discovery," Lin said.

This is the second TIF grant UTPA has been awarded. In 2008, a $50,000 TIF grant to the university went toward developing a nanofabrication device using ForceSpinning™ technology developed by two other UTPA faculty members. The subsequent commercialization of their discovery has resulted in the formation of FibeRio Technology Corporation that will develop and manufacture machinery that employs ForceSpinning™ technology to produce nanofibers from a wider range of materials than ever possible before.

"This second award from the UT System Texas Ignition Fund is not just recognition, but actual financial investment in the nanomaterials expertise here at UTPA," Gramley said.

The TIF program is administered by the UT System's Office of Research and Technology Transfer (RTT), whose charge is to develop and implement strategies to expand and enhance research and commercialization activities at UT System institutions. Including the most recent awards, the UT System's RTT office and the Ignition Fund Advisory Board (IFAB) have approved nearly $2 million in TIF program funds for 45 projects at 13 System institutions.

"In less than two years the TIF has had a dramatic impact all over Texas, as UT institutions from El Paso, Tyler, Edinburg, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin are launching new companies with breakthrough innovations," said Cathy Swain, UT System's assistant vice chancellor for commercial development. "Furthermore, Proof of Concept funding nationally over the past five years tells a compelling success story of accelerating commercialization of university research. We at UT System are delighted to contribute to these outcomes."

A complete list of the most recent round of TIF awards may be found on the TIF Web site.