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College Adds Two New Manufacturing PA Grants to Slate of Funded Projects

Dr. Calvin Li and Dr. C. Nataraj
(left) Dr. Calvin Li and Dr. C. Nataraj (right)

Villanova’s College of Engineering has added two more Manufacturing PA grants to its already impressive list of awards over the past two years. Through the state’s fellowship program, graduate and undergraduate students and their faculty mentors are paired with local manufacturers to embark on research projects to develop new technologies and advance innovation. The College’s latest funding will support Mechanical Engineering’s Dr. Calvin Li on “Innovation in the Calibration of CO2 Sensors to Increase Throughput” and Dr. C. Nataraj for “Development of a Low-Cost Field Ventilator.” Both were awarded the highest grant amount of $70,000.

Associate Professor Li and co-PI Dr. Alfonso Ortega, the James R. Birle Professor of Energy Technology, will partner with Amphenol Sensors, a leading innovator in advanced sensing technologies in St. Mary’s, PA, to investigate potential methods for improving/replacing the company’s existing CO2 sensor batch calibration process. Demand for these sophisticated nondispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors has exploded in recent years as they are a key safety component in electronic vehicles.

Dr. Li explains: “Typical calibration is performed at a steady state for each individual set point of temperature and concentration, which requires 24 hours and a large quantity of CO2 gas for each batch. This research will utilize a combined computational and experimental approach to investigate possible innovations that would decrease the calibration time by reducing the time needed for reaching steady state and the quantity of CO2 consumption. In addition, a transient calibration process will be studied to replace the current batch process for an even shorter calibration time.” The project has the potential to significantly increase the manufacturing capacity—and thus the competitiveness—of Amphenol’s CO2 sensor business.

The low-cost field ventilator project continues work begun by Dr. Nataraj and a team of Villanovans in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. NovaVent, the original prototype of an emergency ventilator, was rigorously tested to show its potential for emergency use. Based on these results, the team has secured a provisional patent and submitted an application to the FDA for EUA approval. With the PA Manufacturing grant, Dr. Nataraj will partner with EFE Laboratories, Inc. to build upon NovaVent’s technology platform and the team’s collective expertise to produce a manufactured, high-quality, rugged, cost-competitive field generator.

“Once the pandemic passes,” says Dr. Nataraj, “the urgent need for ventilators will remain, particularly in more remote and under-resourced communities. Portable and affordable ventilators would not only address international health needs, but could be deployed in emergency situations when existing, hospital-based inventory is constrained. There is also a market for robust, light weight field ventilators in emergency response or battlefield applications.”

The PA Manufacturing Fellows Initiative also provides a viable path to launch the first commercial product from a hardware/software platform incubated within a Pennsylvania university.

See also:

Villanova Receives Funding for COVID-19 Response Through Manufacturing Innovation Challenge (2020):

  • “COVID-19 Risk Monitoring by Wearable Sensor”—Dr. Moeness Amin, director, Center for Advanced Communications, and RTM Vital Signs LLC
  • “Design and Development of NovaVent”—Dr. C. Nataraj

College of Engineering Initiatives Among Those Awarded Manufacturing PA Grants (2020):

  • Smart Brain Imager—Dr. Meltem Izzetoglu, assistant professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Infrascan, Inc.
  • “Wetting of Binder Solution on Porous Bed of Microparticles”—Drs. Bo Li, assistant professor, and Qianhong Wu, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering; and ExOne
  • “Manufacturing Process, Assembly and System Yield Optimization for Microelectromechanical Systems Devices”—Dr. Rosalind Wynne, associate professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Avo Photonics, Inc.

Villanova Engineering Earns Manufacturing PA Innovation Program Awards (2019):

  • “Compressed Metal Foam-Based Cold Plates for Refrigerant-Based Electronics Cooling”—Dr. Aaron Wemhoff, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering, and QuantaCool Corp.
  • “Evaluation of Field Performance of Steel Fin Pile Foundations”—Dr. Jonathan Hubler, assistant professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Mission Critical Solutions
  • “Manufacturing Process Optimization for Food and Biosolids Waste Conversion to Valuable Products”—Dr. Ross Lee, professor of practice, Sustainable Engineering, and SoMax BioEnergy LLC