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UTPA professors honored again for nanofiber technology
Posted: 07/08/2010
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Ever since The University of Texas-Pan American unveiled the ForceSpinning Technology™ developed by two of its faculty members last fall, news of this invention has spread all over the globe and garnered its creators awards.

Dr. Kamal Sarkar, UTPA lecturer of mechanical engineering, pictured left, and Dr. Karen Lozano, UTPA professor of mechanical engineering, pictured right, received an award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers for their invention in nanofiber production.

The latest honor the University received came as a complete surprise to the inventors, Dr. Karen Lozano, endowed professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Kamal Sarkar, lecturer of mechanical engineering. ForceSpinning Technology™ was named one of eight Innovations That Could Change The Way You Manufacture by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers earlier this year. Lozano also gave a presentation on their work at the society's annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. and accepted the award last month.

Lozano and Sarkar said they had no idea how their invention was nominated, especially since the University did not publicize it until after the society's deadline for the award. Lozano said she later heard from a representative of the society that a committee member had heard about their work and suggested it be included with the other innovations it honored.

"It was a real honor," Lozano said.

Lozano said preparing for the presentation was a good learning experience because it prompted her to further research nanofibers and the myriad uses for them. Nanofibers can be used in many ways, including wound care, textiles and water filtration.

"I started mentioning how important the nanotechonology field is and how the nanotechnology field has attracted many people and how important it is now to make it a reality because it has been hyped so much," she said. "People have all these expectations, but you don't see any practical applications yet -- except in the labs -- so people investing a lot of money start to worry and think, 'Is it worth it, should we be investing in something else?' We need to start the transfer from the labs to the industry, and that bridge is exactly what our ForceSpinning does."

ForceSpinning Technology™ enables the mass production of nanofibers -- fibers that are thinner than a human hair -- in an inexpensive way by using centrifugal force.

"In life everything goes back to the nano life," Sarkar said. "At the end of the day all we want to do is apply nanotechnology to real life."

But producing the fibers has been an expensive process, which has limited industries' abilities to use them.

"In my mind I wanted to bridge that gap," Lozano said.

Their invention also led to the creation of FibeRio Technology Corp., a company that will market and sell products developed from the technology Lozano and Sarkar invented. Since its formation last year, FibeRio has been receiving inquiries from potential customers and others interested in the technology, said Lozano, who serves as the company's chief technology officer.

The company also received a Silver Award at the World's Best Technology (WBT) Showcase for its ForceSpinning Technology™ earlier this year.

Both faculty members said they are surprised by how much attention their work has received and excited by how it will affect many people's lives.

"If I cannot make a difference in someone's life it doesn't interest me," Sarkar said.

For more information about FibeRio Technology Corp. and ForceSpinning Technology™, visit www.fiberiotech.com. To learn more about UTPA's undergraduate and graduate engineering programs, visit www.utpa.edu/cose.