Big Ideas: 7 To Watch
better wind power
You've probably seen Amplified Wind Solution's prototype that sits atop Progressive Field. The cylindrical wind turbine can produce up to six times the electricity of a traditional system of similar size and starts working at lower wind speeds. The company, co-founded by Cleveland State University MBA students Niki Zmij and Jon Stehura; Terry Thiele, director of sustainable product strategies at Lubrizol; and Majid Rashidi, chair of CSU's Engineering Technology Department and developer of the turbine system, won $10,000 in the 2013 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge. They now hope to commercialize the product by focusing on the telecom industry, which uses fuel-burning generators for primary or backup power on its cell phone towers. "Those can be very costly — upwards of $80,000," Zmij says. "And our system can be a fraction of that cost, and because wind is the fuel, the fuel is free."
MetroHealth Medical Center's Dr. David Kaelber conducted a study involving almost a million patients over the course of three months last year. He's a smart guy (the internist and pediatrician's Ph.D. in biomedical engineering tells you that much) but that level of research used to take decades. Using an emerging brand of health care called clinic informatics, which Kaelber brought to MetroHealth five years ago, he took just 125 man-hours to complete the study of how height and weight afffect the development of blood clots. "The concept is, How do we take technology — mostly electronic health records — and actually use it to improve health care," explains Kaelber, MetroHealth's chief medical informatics officer. By examining the anonymous digital records, Kaelber's study found a correlation between height and weight in developing clots. "That got a lot of academic press," he says. "Not so much for the clinical findings, but the methodology."
online meets farm-fresh
Jonathan Yale always looked at the labels on his food, but it was what wasn't being disclosed that bothered him. "I realized I wasn't always getting the whole story," says the HooftyMatch co-founder, "especially with meat. I started visiting farms and I learned that quality meat isn't accessible to everyone." His online startup lets Northeast Ohioans order local, fresh meats from Green Vista Farms in Wooster. He and his business partner Phillip Williams plan to include other farms and ultimately hope to take their concept to other parts of the country. "We are working to build a national network of local farms," he says. "We want to celebrate the craftsmen. They are really passionate about what they do, and we are just trying to translate that story to the consumer."
solar power solution
It looks like a fun, interactive zoo exhibit (and it is), but it's also a working example of how Chagrin Falls-based Sunflower Solutions has created a durable and simple way to bring electricity to parts of the globe without it. Visitors to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's African Elephant Crossing can try out the company's emPower Plant to harness the sun's energy. Less is more when it comes to the manually operated solar array developed by company founder Chris Clark. Most similar products track the sun and move automatically by way of motors and gears. Clark's system takes the costly parts out, resulting in a less expensive and easier-to-maintain solution. An early version of the array is in use in a Kenyan schoolhouse. "I went over there and installed it myself," Clark says. "It powers 10 laptops in their library and lights each classroom."
A drug now used to treat cancer may one day help treat Alzheimer's disease, if Case Western Reserve University professor Gary Landreth's research in mice proves true for humans. He discovered that Bexarotene lessened the presence of amyloid — a waxy, translucent substance that builds up over time and affects cognitive function — in the brains of mice within just a few days. "Whether this will translate into humans is the $64,000 question," says Landreth. Many will be watching. Over the years, there have been 28 failed Alzheimer's disease trials. A clinical trial to test whether Bexarotene behaves similarly in humans is underway. "It is not clear to us today whether this drug will have any affect on people who already have Alzheimer's disease, but that's a question of great interest to us," says Landreth. "There are about 5 million Americans with the disease today. That number will be around 16 million in 2050."
The chemical composition of ABS Materials' Osorb is a cross between pane glass and the silicone caulking in your bathtub. But its molecular makeup lets it act like a sponge, extracting organic compounds such as oil and pesticides out of water. The potential uses range from cleaning water used during hydraulic fracturing to removing harmful compounds present in stormwater runoff, which is a leading cause of water pollution in the United States. Paul Edmiston, ABS' chief science officer, invented Osorb in 2005 while working on a federally funded project looking into explosive-sensing glasses. He discovered that applying test solutions to one of the glass variants caused it to expand. "That was a little startling," Edmiston says. "But after a short period of time, I realized it had capabilities that would make it really useful for environmental cleanup."
It'll protect you through rain, heat and snow and charge your iPhone. The Cleveland-based Wahconah Group, a startup that specializes in technology-enhanced menswear, has inked a deal with the U.S. Postal Service to use its name and trademarks for a clothing line set for a spring 2014 release. "We're building on the legacy of the Postal Service," explains Wahconah Group CEO Isaac Crawford. "[It'll be] a collection of outerwear, hats, pants, shirts and accessories that introduces new technology and can be worn in all seasons." Although Crawford is reluctant to divulge too much about the wearable electronics, he talks of clothing that responds to the temperature and pockets equipped to charge an iPhone. It sounds like science fiction, but Crawford sees it merely as evolution. "It looks nice, wears nice and is not a fad."