Neighbors in Tech: Advantage Partners

HP and Oregon State collaborate on next-gen products

CircuitBoardIn most neighborhoods, talk turns to family, weather or sports. But when the neighbors include a global high-tech company and the state’s largest research university, the conversation bends to technology.

“In choosing a location for its Advanced Products Division in 1974, key criteria for HP included quality of life and proximity to a great engineering university and talent pool,” says Tim Weber, vice president and general manager at HP. “Corvallis and OSU fit the bill for HP. From the high rate of hiring OSU engineering graduates to joint research efforts, HP and OSU have enjoyed a strong partnership over the years.”

Here are examples of ongoing collaborations between Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Oregon State University.

Magnetic Alignment

The most common type of desktop printer uses inkjet technology. However, researchers are refining the underlying process — the precise application of liquid drops to paper, plastic and other substrates — to make new electronic circuits. “Just like you print things on paper, you would be able to print a circuit with magnetic materials,” says Pallavi Dhagat of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. With funding from HP and OSU, researchers developed a method for controlling the alignment of magnetic particles in each drop. Standard techniques align magnetic particles in a single direction, but the new process allows particles to be arranged in radial, spiral and other patterns. The benefits will be seen in improved circuit components such as antennae and inductors.

Sensors for Health Monitoring

As we age, health-care costs climb. Researchers are looking for efficiencies to keep us healthy and in our own homes. A collaboration between OSU’s VLSI (very-large-scale integration) Research Group and HP aims to produce a health-monitoring device the size of a Band-Aid. Combined with HP’s Richter sensor, which measures acceleration as an object moves, a wireless system could transmit data to health professionals. Information about how a person walks, for example, could indicate a need for treatment. Existing systems for monitoring heart rate and respiration use batteries and tend to be bulky. The OSU-HP goal, says Patrick Chiang, OSU electrical engineer, is a lightweight, convenient device that harvests energy from a base station.

Cool Operator

Computers, inkjet printers and many other electronic devices produce heat that can limit performance, so designers and manufacturers resort to many different cooling technologies. One set of materials, known as piezoelectrics, produce voltage in response to a mechanical stress and are already used to eject the ink in some inkjet printers. However, most of these materials contain lead, which is gradually being phased out of industrial products. Researchers at OSU have demonstrated novel lead-free materials that are piezoelectric and can extract heat from their surroundings. “The properties of lead-based materials are so good, they will be hard to replace,” says Brady Gibbons, associate professor of materials science and mechanical engineering. “But the market is so large, the payoff could be huge.” In the course of a five-year collaboration with HP, Gibbons, his colleague David Cann and student researchers have discovered a class of lead-free ceramic materials that have excellent piezoelectric properties and great potential for use in solid state cooling applications. One patent has been received, and several more are in the pipeline. Support has been provided by HP, the Oregon Metals Initiative, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) and OSU’s Venture Development Fund.

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To discover what the Oregon State University Advantage and the Advantage Partnerships program can do for your business, contact Ron Adams, Executive Associate Vice President for Research, 541-737-7722.

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