SEATTLE, Wash. — The Washington Technology Center awarded more than $400,000 in funding support to nine companies across the state to help support its research and development programs. Each year through its Research and Technology Development program, WTC awards more than $1 million to joint-research projects between university researchers and companies in Washington.

This round of diverse projects supports advances in ceramic heating elements, the remote operation of unmanned aerial vehicles, radiographic imaging, environmentally-friendly plastic disposable food packaging, scanned beam displays, a diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis, composting from waste materials, ultrasonic power toothbrushes and drying fruit for cereal. A summary of these research collaborations is featured on WTC’s Web site at www.watechcenter.org/news/2004winter/awards.html.

Harmonics Inc. (Seattle) and Dr. Thomas Stoebe, University of Washington Department of Materials Science and Engineering: Harmonics Inc. develops and commercializes innovative materials for energy conversion applications and pollution control. The company has invented and partially developed a proprietary electro conductive (EC) ceramic material that will be used, among other process applications, for heating elements.

The Insitu Group (Bingen) and Dr. Rolf Rysdyk, UW Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics: The Insitu Group manufactures miniature robotic aircrafts (also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for commercial and military applications. It aims to offer economical, autonomous, miniature aerial platforms for long-endurance surveillance missions through the innovative use of advanced technologies. The team is developing software to make it easier to remotely fly these unmanned aerial vehicles.

LumenIQ Inc. (Bellingham) and Dr. David Field, WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering: In order to evaluate the integrity of industrial structures like pipelines and storage tanks, engineers rely on Non-Destructive Examination (NDE), which allows testing without destroying the structure. LumenIQ is testing its software to evaluate corrosion, determine wall thickness and locate weld deformities using steel and iron. The result will be a series of mathematical calculations that form the foundation for the addition of a material thickness measurement feature to LumenIQ’s core imaging product.

MicroGREEN Polymers Inc. (Stanwood) and Dr. Vipin Kumar, UW Department of Mechanical Engineering: Disposable food packaging made from plastics and paper is an $11 billion market. While paper food packaging costs considerably more than conventional plastic foam, it is favored due to environmental and health concerns regarding traditional polystyrene foam. MicroGREEN Polymers Inc. is developing and testing production of environmentally friendly plastic disposable food packaging, such as cups and trays. MicroGREEN’s foamed materials, made from recycled CO2 gas and 100 percent recycled plastic, are tougher and stronger than traditional foam plastic. Its foaming process will reduce plastic usage by at least 75 percent compared to solid plastic packaging.

Microvision Inc. (Bothell) and Dr. Kannan M. Krishnan, UW Department of Materials Science and Engineering: Microvision Inc. designs and markets information, display and capture products, and component technologies. The company develops and commercializes the scanned-beam technology, using Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems micro mirrors for information displays and image capture products, such as a camera or barcode readers. Microvision intends to investigate the development of materials and processes for fabrication of hard micromagnets for actuation of MEMS devices. These new materials can reduce size, power and costs, opening up the growing consumer market.

PriTest Inc. (Redmond) and Dr. William Davis, WSU Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology: Bovine tuberculosis is a serious disease of cattle that can also affect humans, domestic animals and wildlife. Millions of cattle today are tested regularly for Mycobacterium bovis (Mbv) to reduce the risk of disease spread to other cattle and other types of animals and to protect public health. PriTest is working to complete the development of a new rapid diagnostic test kit using the PriTest biodetection platform to significantly improve the diagnosis of Mbv in cattle. The test market for this product is Washington state’s $100+ million cattle industry.

Quincy Farm Chemicals Inc. (Quincy) and Dr. Steven Verhey, Central Washington University Department of Biological Sciences: Compost is an increasingly important source of macro- and micronutrients and organic matter used to improve soil characteristics in production agriculture. It is also an alternative to chemical fertilizers. Turning waste material feedstocks into a valuable and saleable product, compost, is one of the goals of Quincy Farm Chemicals. The company is working to: 1) analyze the local mint feedstocks for composting potential, 2) develop “recipes” likely to produce high-quality compost, and 3) produce and test the compost for fertilizer use. Quincy Farm Chemical’s “recycling” process of this previously unused mint straw provides the company with a new product to sell while also solving a waste disposal problem.

Second Act Partners Inc. (Sammamish) and Dr. Pierre Mourad, UW Applied Physics Laboratory: Power toothbrushes represent a U.S. market of more than $1 billion. The industry has experienced an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent in the past 10 years. Yet, even with this growth, only 25 percent of U.S. households use a power toothbrush. Second Act Partners is an early-stage company that is developing a power toothbrush that will improve the ability to clean teeth and gums. This project will further refine the prototype for this technology based on in vitro (in an artificial environment) testing that can be used to build a prototype for clinical testing and manufacturing.

Tree Top Inc. (Selah) and Dr. Carter Clary, WSU Department of Biological Systems Engineering: The domestic and international market for ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal is large. Tree Top is a grower-owned cooperative that processes apple products in Central Washington. The company’s Ingredient Division processes dried, frozen and fresh apple ingredients. Incorporating fruit into these cereals is common, using fruits (e.g., raisins) and berries that can be dried by traditional methods such as “sun-drying” or “hot air drying.” Tree Top will use research expertise in microwave vacuum drying to evaluate the feasibility, develop the processing parameters and produce prototypes of specific fruits and berries (both fresh and frozen) for RTE cereals that surpass the quality of current products.

WTC awards companies with funding support twice a year. For more information on its programs and services, visit its Web site at www.watechcenter.org. To be considered for the 2004 spring awards program, a company must submit a notice of intent no later than March 11.