Food Safety, Energy Storage & Video Authentication Inventions Honored at Awards Ceremony

A new method for quickly detecting bacteria in complex food samples. A revolutionary, high energy density nanopore battery. A new technique for verifying the source of video streams.

These innovations were the three winners of the annual University of Maryland Invention of the Year Awards, announced at the Celebration of Innovation and Partnerships event on April 29, attended by over 300 guests gathered at University House on the College Park campus. 

Prof. Reinhard Radermacher and the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program were also announced the winners of the Corporate Connector of the Year awards. The award is given each year to an individual or a program in the university who has established partnerships with the private sector in corporate research, philanthropy, and/or student support. 

UMD’s Office of Technology Commercialization, part of the Division of Research, received a total of 187 disclosures in 2014, involving more than 430 contributing inventors.  Gayatri Varma, executive director of the Office of Technology Commercialization, said that the number of inventors had doubled over the past ten years.

The nine nominees for Invention of the Year were selected based upon their potential impact on science, society, and the open market, and the three winners in the categories of physical sciences, life sciences, and information sciences, were selected by a panel of independent judges.

“We are very proud of the innovations our faculty researchers develop here on our College Park campus,” said Vice President and Chief Research Officer Patrick O’Shea. “The high quality of each year’s finalists demonstrate the strength of our research enterprise and the power of our innovation ecosystem.”

“To me [this event] represents what a great university is all about. It brings together everything that is important within a university,” said Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan.

The three inventions honored at the event on Wednesday include the following:

Winner in the Life Sciences category:

A Groundbreaking New Bacteria Detection Method for Testing Complex Food Samples

Another groundbreaking life sciences invention is an apparatus developed by Dr. Javier Atencia-Fernandez, research assistant professor at the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. The device can cause bacteria present in food to actually self-separate so that researchers and users in independent labs that perform food safety tests for the food industry can rapidly detect pathogens in food samples. It only takes the device 30 minutes to extract 75% of the bacteria in a food sample, and two hours and 30 minutes to extract 99%. By comparison, existing processes take 12 to 36 hours.

"In many cases, especially fresh produce, there is no regulation and sometimes companies just send fresh produce to grocery stores without having done any tests just because of the time it takes,” Atencia-Fernandez said.

Winner in the Physical Sciences category:

A Revolutionary, High Energy Density Nanopore Battery

Dr. Gary Rubloff, professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Maryland NanoCenter, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Sang Bok Lee, and their research team invented a nanopore battery with high energy density and excellent capacity retention. The battery is made of nanotubular electrodes and an electrolyte, all confined in an anodic aluminum oxide nanopore. It is an all-in-one device and shows promise for higher energy availability for a given power density due to larger surface area and shorter transport time for the ions in the electrode material. It signifies the potential that nanostructure design has for high power electrochemical storage.

“We are excited about taking the scientific results in our energy frontier [research] center . . . and trying to turn that into something that makes a difference in energy storage and in the consequence of the future of the society,” Rubloff said.

Winner in the Information Sciences Category:

Verifying the Source of Video Streams Using Electric Network Frequency (ENF) Signals

This nomination is a novel technique to measure Electric Network Frequency (ENF) signals by exploiting the rolling shutter mechanism in a modern Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor or CMOS-based camera. The technology, developed by Dr. Min Wu, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and the Institute for Systems Research, along with her research team, enables the source verification of a video stream by extracting the ENF signals using a camera that views objects lit with incandescent or fluorescent lighting with a rolling shutter.

“It’s nice to see that the university has recognized and encouraged us and we are thankful [to] all the offices involved for helping us realize the most potential we can get for the work that we do,” said Adi Hajj-Ahmad, Wu's research assistant.

In addition to the Inventor of the Year Awards and the Corporate Connector of the Year Awards, the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship also conferred the Campus Innovator awards on students who have shown and demonstrated entrepreneurial activities. 

Rudy Lamone, founder of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, said that the event encouraged student participation in the culture of innovation and partnership and provided role models for students when they met other entrepreneurs and innovators.

“Being around these people is what I call a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship which is very, very important to develop an ecosystem on this campus to support this kind of program,” he said.

Wallace D. Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park, expressed appreciation for Dean Chang, associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship.

He said that Chang tripled the number of students exposed to innovation and entrepreneurship education in the two years that he has been in-charge of this program.

“I am so proud of the fact that after two years of deliberation we finally are awarding promotion and tenure in part on the basis of technology commercialization,” he said.

Patrick O'Shea acknowledged the work of site miners Harry Geller, Louis Cantolupo and Daniel Lathrop. “They help the faculty, the students, researchers to think about commercialization, think about filing inventions, getting patents and actually starting companies”

Learn more about this invention and others at: or

Published April 30, 2015