2015 Innovation Celebration Winners

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The MSU Innovation Center recognizes the MSU Innovator of the Year and two Innovations of the Year. Commended for their perseverance and creativity at the MSU Innovation Celebration, awardees were presented with plaques and cash prize.

Innovator of the Year
Dr. Alvin Smucker
Professor of Soil Biophysics in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Subsurface Water Retention Technology (SWRT)
Dr. Smucker’s research focuses on water retention of soils, particularly the application of subsurface water retention technologies. Drawing on decades of research on plant root systems, Dr. 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.

2015 Innovation of the Year I
Dr. Richard Lunt

Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science
Transparent Solar Technology
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.

2015 Innovation of the Year II
Dr. Merlin Bruening

Professor in the Department of Chemistry
The technology Dr. 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.