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OSU's food preservation and safety hotline opens July 14

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:39am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Extension Service's food preservation and safety hotline will help Oregonians safely can and preserve their garden's abundance again this summer.

The toll-free hotline at 1-800-354-7319 is available July 14 to Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The hotline remains a useful resource for food safety information even in the Internet age, said Nellie Oehler, a faculty member with the OSU Extension Service's Family and Community Health program and Master Food Preserver coordinator in Lane County.

"There's a lot of misinformation online and you have to know the right websites to get accurate information or you could literally kill yourself if you use techniques that are not safe," Oehler said. "People call us to get reliable information from a real person. The Lane and Douglas County Master Food Preservers who answer the calls have good training and years of experience canning and preserving food."

Like all Extension-certified Master Food Preservers, those who staff the hotline have completed 40 hours of training and agreed to spend a similar amount of time sharing their new knowledge with the public. Last year, 460 new and veteran Master Food Preservers throughout the state volunteered more than 20,000 hours of their time on the statewide hotline and at workshops and exhibits.

Master Food Preservers answered 2,262 calls during the 2013 summer season. About 80 percent of those dealt with food safety questions. Typical questions include where to get pressure gauges tested, how long in advance you can cook chicken before the big family picnic and whether grandma's canning recipe is still safe.  

For more information, go to the OSU Extension website on food preservation at http://bit.ly/YqgsFE. OSU Extension's Ask an Expert service also takes online questions about food preservation. Master Food Preservers also run a holiday food safety hotline every November. Find more information about the Master Food Preserver program at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/volunteer-programs.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Nellie Oehler, 541-757-3937

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Michele Pryse, a Master Food Preserver trained by the Oregon State University Extension Service, teaches food preservation techniques and safety guidelines to clients in the Medford area. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Findings point toward one of first therapies for Lou Gehrig’s disease

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 9:56am
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Researchers are getting close to one of the first significant therapies ever known for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers have determined that a copper compound known for decades may form the basis for a therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In a new study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, scientists from Australia, the United States (Oregon), and the United Kingdom showed in laboratory animal tests that oral intake of this compound significantly extended the lifespan and improved the locomotor function of transgenic mice that are genetically engineered to develop this debilitating and terminal disease.

In humans, no therapy for ALS has ever been discovered that could extend lifespan more than a few additional months. Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University say this approach has the potential to change that, and may have value against Parkinson’s disease as well.

“We believe that with further improvements, and following necessary human clinical trials for safety and efficacy, this could provide a valuable new therapy for ALS and perhaps Parkinson’s disease,” said Joseph Beckman, a distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Beckman, who received the 2012 Discovery Award from the OHSU Medical Research Foundation as the leading medical researcher in Oregon.

ALS was first identified as a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease in the late 1800s and gained international recognition in 1939 when it was diagnosed in American baseball legend Lou Gehrig. It’s known to be caused by motor neurons in the spinal cord deteriorating and dying, and has been traced to mutations in copper, zinc superoxide dismutase, or SOD1. Ordinarily, superoxide dismutase is an antioxidant whose proper function is essential to life.

When SOD1 is lacking its metal co-factors, it “unfolds” and becomes toxic, leading to the death of motor neurons. The metals copper and zinc are important in stabilizing this protein, and can help it remain folded more than 200 years.

“The damage from ALS is happening primarily in the spinal cord and that’s also one of the most difficult places in the body to absorb copper,” Beckman said. “Copper itself is necessary but can be toxic, so its levels are tightly controlled in the body. The therapy we’re working toward delivers copper selectively into the cells in the spinal cord that actually need it. Otherwise, the compound keeps copper inert.”

“This is a safe way to deliver a micronutrient like copper exactly where it is needed,” Beckman said.

By restoring a proper balance of copper into the brain and spinal cord, scientists believe they are stabilizing the superoxide dismutase in its mature form, while improving the function of mitochondria. This has already extended the lifespan of affected mice by 26 percent, and with continued research the scientists hope to achieve even more extension.

The compound that does this is called copper (ATSM), has been studied for use in some cancer treatments, and is relatively inexpensive to produce.

“In this case, the result was just the opposite of what one might have expected,” said Blaine Roberts, lead author on the study and a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, who received his doctorate at OSU working with Beckman.

“The treatment increased the amount of mutant SOD, and by accepted dogma this means the animals should get worse,” he said. “But in this case, they got a lot better. This is because we’re making a targeted delivery of copper just to the cells that need it.

“This study opens up a previously neglected avenue for new disease therapies, for ALS and other neurodegenerative disease,” Roberts said.

Other collaborators on this research include OSU, the University of Melbourne, University of Technology/Sydney, Deakin University, the Australian National University, and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Funding has been provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Linus Pauling Institute and other groups in Australia and Finland.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Joseph Beckman, 541-737-8867

Categories: Research news

Animal trapping records reveal strong wolf effect across North America

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 9:15am
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Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

From Alaska and Yukon to Nova Scotia and Maine, the researchers have demonstrated that a “wolf effect” exists, favoring red foxes where wolves are present and coyotes where wolves are absent.

This effect requires that enough wolves be present to suppress coyotes over a wide area. Fur trapping records from Saskatchewan and Manitoba reveal that where wolves are absent in the southern agricultural regions of each province, coyotes outnumber foxes on average by 3-to-1. However, where wolves are abundant in the North, the balance swings dramatically in favor of foxes on average by 4-to-1 and at an extreme of 500-to-1 at one site.

In between is a 200-kilometer (124-mile) transition zone where too few wolves are present to tip the balance between coyotes and foxes.

The results of the study by Thomas Newsome and William Ripple in the Oregon State University Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society were published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology by the British Ecological Society.

“As wolves were extirpated across the southern half of North America, coyotes dramatically expanded their range,” said Newsome, a post-doctoral researcher. “They were historically located in the middle and western United States, but they dispersed all the way to Alaska in the early 1900s and to New Brunswick and Maine by the 1970s.”

“So essentially coyotes have been dispersing into wolf and red-fox range in the North but also into areas where wolves are absent but red fox are present in the East,” Newsome added.

Newsome came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship from Australia where he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney and specialized in the study of dingoes, that continent’s top predator. There’s a debate among Australians, he said, about the potential role of dingoes in suppressing introduced pests that have already decimated wildlife there.

“Over the last 200 years, Australia has had the highest extinction rate in the world,” Newsome said. “The debate is about whether the dingo can provide positive ecological benefits. Where dingoes have been removed, the impacts of introduced red foxes and feral cats have been quite severe on native fauna.”

Dingoes are managed as a pest in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state. To reduce dingo predation in the livestock industry, Australia also maintains the world’s longest fence, which runs for 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles) in an attempt to exclude dingoes from almost a quarter of the continent.

In North America, the effect of wolves on coyotes and red foxes provides a natural case study that can be instructive for Australians. “Australians can learn a lot from how wolves are managed in North America, and Americans can learn from the ecological role of the dingo,” Newsome said.

As coyotes have expanded in North America, they have become a major cause of concern for the livestock industry. In the United States in 2004, researchers estimated annual losses due to coyote predation on sheep and cattle at $40 million. To reduce those damages, the Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a program to reduce coyote numbers, an effort that has drawn criticism from conservation groups.

In reviewing the fur trapping data from two U.S. and six Canadian jurisdictions, Newsome and Ripple eliminated potential sources of bias such as records from fur farms that raise foxes. The fur prices of coyotes and red foxes are also strongly correlated, and the two species occupy much of the same types of habitat, so they are equally likely to be targeted and caught in hunters’ traps.

“This study gives us a whole other avenue to understand the ecological effects of wolves on landscapes and animal communities,” said Ripple. He has studied the influence of carnivores on their prey — such as deer and elk — and on vegetation from aspen trees to willows. He and his colleagues have shown that the removal of top predators can cause dramatic shifts within ecosystems.

Wolves are naturally recolonizing many areas of the United States following their reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in 1995. Scientists are studying wolf interactions with other species, and in particular, there is interest in determining whether recolonizing wolves will suppress coyote populations and have cascading effects on red foxes and other species.

Newsome received funding from the Australian-American Fulbright Commission and from the government and universities of New South Wales in Australia.

 

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Thomas Newsome, 541-737-3197

Wiliam Ripple, 541-737-3056

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Coyote (Photo: Shawn McCready)

Red fox (Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar)

Gray wolf (Photo: Doug McLaughlin)

Categories: Research news

Genome could unlock eucalyptus potential for paper, fuel and fiber

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 8:08am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a collaboration spanning five continents, scientists have announced the complete sequencing of one of the world’s most widely planted trees, Eucalyptus grandis.

Used for fuel and timber, the species is valued for fast growth and straight grain. Grown usually as a hybrid, it is one of more than 500 species of eucalyptus trees and shrubs that provide a renewable source of fiber, pulp, biofuel material, and medicinal and industrial oils. The accomplishment was published today in the scientific journal Nature.

On the research team were 12 Oregon State University scientists, including plant biologist Pankaj Jaiswal. "This genome sequence will help usher in a new era for studying the biology of the eucalyptus tree. Our advances in understanding could help redefine the possibilities of improving biomass yield, stress tolerance and other traits," said Jaiswal, a botany and plant pathology professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Jaiswal and his colleagues used the high-performance computing facility in Oregon State’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing to assign functions to the tree's 36,000-plus genes. They identified which genes correspond to biological processes that underpin control of growth rate, wood hardness, flowering and other attributes.

Plant breeders can use the eucalyptus genome to enhance or suppress traits in the tree, Jaiswal added. For example, breeding for more lignin, which confers strength to woody tissue, can produce wood better suited for furniture. Trees with less lignin could require less energy and fewer chemicals needed to make paper from eucalyptus pulp.

For breeding purposes, one of the most significant accomplishments stems from understanding the genes associated with flowering. Eucalyptus trees generally take three to 10 years to flower after they are propagated from seed, a process that slows the rate of breeding considerably, said Steve Strauss, a co-author of the Nature paper and an Oregon State distinguished professor of forest biotechnology in the College of Forestry.

Strauss has already shown that activating genes responsible for flower development can accelerate flowering. "By accelerating the speed of eucalyptus flowering, plant breeders can shorten generation time for developing new varieties with improved traits," he said.

Researchers can also use the floral gene sequences to prevent or disrupt flowering. That technology could help stop the undesirable spread of the tree and prevent it from becoming invasive.

The study is also leading to a better understanding of the evolutionary relationships of eucalyptus and its relatives. OSU professors Joseph Spatafora and Aaron Liston worked with Jaiswal to redefine the placement of eucalyptus in plant classification. "We managed to reassign its position in the evolutionary tree of life," said Liston.

“The genome provides a better roadmap for breeders to follow, although there is still a long road ahead of us to adapt the plant to all of our desired uses,” he added.

A research group from South Africa, led by Alexander Myburg of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria, supplied the eucalyptus tissues and RNA sequenced by Oregon State.

Collaborating in the research were 80 scientists in South Africa, Brazil, North America, Europe and Australia (where eucalyptus originated). Among the funding sources were Oregon State University, the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative and the National Science Foundation. A contribution by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

Other OSU researchers contributing to the project were: Sushma Naithani, Justin Elser, Rajani Raja and Palitha Dharmawardhana in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Martin Ranik, Vindhya Amarasinghe and Kelly Vining in the College of Forestry; Alexander E. Boyd and Christopher Sullivan in the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing.

A genome browser and further information on the project are available at http://www.phytozome.net/eucalyptus.php.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Pankaj Jaiswal, 541-737-8471; Steve Strauss, 541-737-6578; Joseph Spatafora, 541-737-5304; Aaron Liston, 541-737-5301

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Eucalyptus logs await shipment at a plantation in Brazil. (Photo by Steve Strauss.)


 

Plant breeders grow eucalyptus seedlings at a nursery in Brazil. (Photo by Steve Strauss)

Categories: Research news

ODFW, OSU to survey hunters about use of lead ammunition

Wed, 06/11/2014 - 2:07pm
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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University are collaborating on an effort to survey Oregon hunters about their use and knowledge of lead ammunition.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University are collaborating on an effort to survey Oregon hunters about their use and knowledge of lead ammunition.

The random sample of 4,200 Oregon hunters will begin later this month and those selected should receive a letter from ODFW within the next two weeks. Oregon has approximately 250,000 hunters and the survey will include hunters from each geographic region of the state.

The use of lead ammunition has become a national issue because of impacts to wildlife and human health concerns, according to Ron Anglin, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator. Last year, California passed a law banning the use of lead ammunition for all hunting in the state beginning in 2019; other states have adopted voluntary measures encouraging the use of ammunition made from alternative compounds.

“There is no proposal to ban or limit use of lead ammunition in Oregon, but developments outside of Oregon could affect the use of lead ammunition within the state,” Anglin said. “The Environmental Protection Agency was petitioned to ban the use of lead in ammunition on a nationwide basis and there is the potential of condors being restored in northern California.”

The California legislature passed a law banning lead ammunition to protect endangered California condors, according to Dana Sanchez, an OSU Extension wildlife specialist and one of the project leaders. Condors can become ill after scavenging on animals that have been killed by lead bullets. The birds ingest lead fragments and can become sick or die, she said.

“Historically, Oregon has had condors, though none are known to live here now,” Sanchez pointed out. “However, there are efforts to re-establish populations in northern California and if they are successful, it is only a matter of time before condors begin frequenting the southern portions of Oregon.

“Once condors appear in Oregon, they would be subject to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act,” she added.

Sanchez said some conservation organizations in the state are monitoring lead levels in birds of prey brought into wildlife rehabilitation centers. There is increasing concern that lead exposure may be causing impacts to raptors and eagles in some areas, she said.

“This could lead to an initiative or other efforts to eliminate or restrict the use of lead ammunition,” Sanchez said.

The survey was developed by the OSU Survey Research Center, which will collect the data for ODFW and the OSU Wildlife Extension program. Survey results will be used to inform discussions among agencies, groups and others about any potential restrictions in the use of lead ammunition.

The purpose of the survey, Anglin said, is to gather information from the group of stakeholders who would be most affected by any restrictions on lead ammunition – Oregon hunters.

“Ideally, we would like to survey all Oregon hunters, but that is expensive,” Anglin said. “However, by selecting a random sample of hunters from regions across the state, we should get a clear picture of how Oregon hunters feel about lead ammunition and possible alternatives.”

Persons not chosen for the survey are welcome to provide comments on lead ammunition directly to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife at a special email address: ODFW.wildlifeinfo@state.or.us

Anglin said the ODFW/OSU project team plans to conduct a similar survey of non-hunting Oregonians in the future.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Ron Anglin, 503-947-6301; ODFW.wildlifeinfo@state.or.us; Dana Sanchez, 541-737-6003; dana.sanchez@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU to hold 145th commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 14

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:31am
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Oregon State University will hold its 145th commencement on Saturday, June 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Reser Stadium, graduating a record class of nearly 5,900 students.

CORVALLIS, Ore – Oregon State University will hold its 145th commencement on Saturday, June 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Reser Stadium, graduating a record class of nearly 5,900 students.

The commencement speaker is Ann A. Kiessling, director of the independent Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation and a leader in both stem cell research and reproductive biology. She also will receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Commencement is free and open to the public; no tickets are necessary. More information about OSU’s graduation is available online at: http://oregonstate.edu/events/commencement/. The OSU ceremony is being broadcast on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s OPB Plus channel.

OSU’s class of 2014 has 5,878 graduates, who will receive 6,194 degrees, according to OSU Registrar Rebecca Mathern. The previous largest class was in 2013, when 5,221 grads earned 5,483 degrees. (About 3,800 grads are expected to participate in Saturday’s commencement, along with an estimated 21,000 guests).

This year’s graduates have many compelling stories about their success. Sadie Davis is a former high school dropout, who pursued an OSU degree after earning her GED. The mother of a teenage daughter, this first-generation college student overcame personal issues to graduate magna cum laude. She managed the Women Returning to Higher Education Program at OSU’s Women’s Center, and was a staunch advocate for students battling addiction as well as for students pursuing education later in life.

Brian Benavidez spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as an avionics systems specialist and served for a time in Iraq. He was accepted into the Airman Scholarship Commissioning Program and became a cadet in OSU’s Air Force ROTC program. He commanded a wing of nearly 80 cadets, and served as president of the Veterans & Family Student Association. He is graduating summa cum laude in electrical and computer engineering.

Kayla Thorsness was a high school valedictorian from Philomath who was active in sports, 4-H, school leaderships and volunteerism when she was diagnosed with melanoma. She didn’t let that deter her – and less than three years later she is graduating from OSU with two degrees, in accounting and business information systems. She worked at Dixon Recreation Center and eventually became supervisor and center manager. She also completed an internship with a major accounting firm, and was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, Heartland Humane Society, the Philomath Booster Club and the Junior Achievement Program.

Some statistics about the class of 2014:

  • Of the 6,194 degrees: 4,908 are baccalaureate degrees; 917, master’s degrees, 93 Doctor of Pharmacy degrees, 224 Doctor of Philosophy degrees, and 52 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees;
  • OSU’s graduates hail from 35 Oregon counties, 49 states, three U.S. territories or commonwealths and 55 countries;
  • The oldest member of the class of 2014 is 78 years of age and the youngest is 19;
  • A total of 107 members of the graduating class are veterans.

OSU’s commencement speaker Kiessling has a doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics from Oregon State. Born in Baker City, Ore., she graduated from Klamath Falls High School in 1960. She eventually joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1985, specializing in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, and working in the Department of Surgery. In the early 1990s, she pioneered reproductive options for couples living with the HIV disease and hepatitis C – techniques that led to the successful births of 121 children free of those diseases.

The Bedford Research Foundation she directs was founded in 1996 as a Massachusetts public charity to support research. By the year 2000, the foundation’s research laboratory expanded to include human stem cell research. To date, the foundation has collaborated with more than 60 clinics globally to find treatment for infectious diseases and spinal cord injuries.

Kiessling, the mother of four children, wrote one of the first books about the enormous potential of stem cells in treating supposedly “incurable” diseases, including spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure and diabetes. She has been a pioneer in developing ways to create or identify “pluripotent” stem cells that do not involve the use of human embryos.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Rebecca Mathern, 541-737-4048; Rebecca.Mathern@oregonstate.edu

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Commencement

speaker

Ann Kiessling

Categories: Research news

Technology using microwave heating may impact electronics manufacture

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:20am
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OSU engineers have merged a microwave heating system with a continuous flow reactor to produce technology that may dramatically affect the electronics industry.

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1pJjhnK

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have successfully shown that a continuous flow reactor can produce high-quality nanoparticles by using microwave-assisted heating – essentially the same forces that heat up leftover food with such efficiency.

Instead of warming up yesterday’s pizza, however, this concept may provide a technological revolution.

It could change everything from the production of cell phones and televisions to counterfeit-proof money, improved solar energy systems or quick identification of troops in combat.

The findings, recently published in Materials Letters, are essentially a “proof of concept” that a new type of nanoparticle production system should actually work at a commercial level.

“This might be the big step that takes continuous flow reactors to large-scale manufacturing,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor and chemical engineer in the OSU College of Engineering. “We’re all pretty excited about the opportunities that this new technology will enable.”

Nanoparticles are extraordinarily small particles at the forefront of advances in many biomedical, optical and electronic fields, but precise control of their formation is needed and “hot injection” or other existing synthetic approaches are slow, costly, sometimes toxic and often wasteful.

A “continuous flow” system, by contrast, is like a chemical reactor that moves constantly along. It can be fast, cheap, more energy-efficient, and offer lower manufacturing cost. However, heating is necessary in one part of the process, and in the past that was best done only in small reactors.

The new research has proven that microwave heating can be done in larger systems at high speeds. And by varying the microwave power, it can precisely control nucleation temperature and the resulting size and shape of particles.

“For the applications we have in mind, the control of particle uniformity and size is crucial, and we are also able to reduce material waste,” Herman said. “Combining continuous flow with microwave heating could give us the best of both worlds – large, fast reactors with perfectly controlled particle size.”

The researchers said this should both save money and create technologies that work better. Improved LED lighting is one possibility, as well as better TVs with more accurate colors. Wider use of solid state lighting might cut power use for lighting by nearly 50 percent nationally. Cell phones and other portable electronic devices could use less power and last longer on a charge.

The technology also lends itself well to creation of better “taggants,” or compounds with specific infrared emissions that can be used for precise, instant identification – whether of a counterfeit $20 bill or an enemy tank in combat that lacks the proper coding.

In this study, researchers worked with lead selenide nanoparticles, which are particularly good for the taggant technologies. Other materials can be synthesized using this reactor for different applications, including copper zinc tin sulfide and copper indium diselenide for solar cells.

New Oregon jobs and businesses are already evolving from this work.

OSU researchers have applied for a patent on aspects of this technology, and are working with private industry on various applications. Shoei Electronic Materials, one of the collaborators, is pursuing “quantum dot” systems based on this approach, and recently opened new manufacturing facilities in Eugene, Ore., to use this synthetic approach for quantum dot enabled televisions, smartphones and other devices.

The research has been supported by the Air Force Research Laboratory, OSU Venture Funds, and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, or ONAMI.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

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Continuous flow reactor

Categories: Research news

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