Two Auburn Profs Win LAUNCH $ for Great Notions

Novel developments for agricultural feed and 3D printed batteries top this year’s list of innovations in the LAUNCH competition.

Zhihua Jiang

Two Auburn engineering school professors won $100,000 each to fund research projects aimed at breakthrough products in the marketplace. One is a food for fish. The other is an energy bank for small electronics.

The awards were annual grants from Auburn’s LAUNCH program. The LAUNCH Fund for Research and Innovation, established in 2015, is designed to bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace.

This year’s recipients, Zhihua Jiang and Majid Beidaghi, are both from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

Jiang, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and director of the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering, is developing a compound feed binder made of soybean hulls, an agricultural waste product. He and his team believe the soy hull feed binder, which will be used in aquaculture diets and other feedstuffs, has the potential to penetrate the existing and growing global animal feed market, which is valued at more than $400 billion in the U.S.

Beidaghi, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is researching the development of formulation of inks, or filament, for the fabrication of batteries through an extrusion-based 3D printing process. 3D printing will allow fabrication of batteries with complex designs and form factors for conventional and advanced applications, addressing the increasing demand for efficient energy storage devices for small and portable electronics.

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“Printed batteries are rapidly gaining attention for various applications ranging from wearable and flexible electronics to self-powered sensors. Our technology will potentially transform how batteries and other energy storage devices are manufactured,” said Beidaghi.

Majid Beidaghi

As LAUNCH award recipients, Jiang and Beidaghi will meet with experts in entrepreneurship from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business and members of the Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization (IAC) to develop plans for commercialization.

“These are the ‘big ideas’ that will create jobs, grow our economy and improve quality of life, and we are pleased to support this year’s outstanding winners,” said Cary Chandler, director of the LAUNCH program and director of business development and start-ups for Auburn’s IAC.

This year’s competition was held virtually.

The LAUNCH program currently falls under Auburn’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. The goal is to bring the innovation closer to commercialization, which is either further development or taking it to the stage for licensing, either with an existing company or a start-up. Any such licensing could then provide revenues back to Auburn University in the form of fees, royalties or equity ownership, which is also shared with the inventors, as well as the academic units and labs.

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