Inventions, Discoveries, and Software Developments

Indiana University has knowledge and technological advances to pass along to industry, the government, and even other schools and colleges. What follows are a few examples of technologies that are now, or will soon have the potential to be, used beyond the research centers and laboratories where they are designed, developed, and tested.

Computer-Simulated Mechanical Ventilation

Patients who are critically ill very often cannot breathe for themselves and are placed on machines that push air in and out of their lungs. The clinician must decide among other critical decisions how big a breath the machine should deliver and how frequently it should be delivered. William C. Burke, assistant professor of respiratory therapy and director of clinical education, Division of Medicine and School of Allied Health Sciences, IUPUI, has developed a computer-simulated mechanical ventilation software program that allows the user to input a variety of chosen ventilator settings in response to simulated clinical pulmonary disease states. The program displays real-time wave forms showing flow pattern, volume, air pressure, and alveolar pressure. By examining the graphic output, users can interpret results of mechanical ventilator settings on predetermined lung conditions. The program can be used by the medical education field to teach respiration therapy to respiratory therapists, nurses, and physicians in training.

Rape Awareness

Did you know that the average age of a woman being raped is sixteen to twenty-four years old? That one out of four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime? That most rapes are committed by acquaintances or dates? Diane Ledger of the Office of Women's Affairs and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Boling and her graduate students from the School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington, have developed a software program that describes specifically what rape is by providing these and other statistics, facts, and references. The program tries to unravel myths about rape—for example, that the woman is a seductive individual asking to be raped. It is intended for students from junior and senior high school and for college freshmen and sophomores, and it may be used in groups to foster discussion or by individuals to gain personal awareness about rape. Users also learn how to avoid becoming potential targets for a rapist, to locate useful resources on the topic of rape, and to find help in their communities, for themselves and others, in the event of rape.

Utilizing Asbestos

Once seen as a fire-resistant miracle product, asbestos is now known to cause health problems in cases of long-term exposure. Glenn Mason, assistant professor of geography at Indiana University Southeast, however, has discovered a process to not only render asbestos harmless, but make it potentially useful. Modifying the structure of the material's crystals by combining it with a mineral called trona can turn the potentially hazardous waste into a synthetic mineral useful in road paving, construction aggregate, and sand blasting. In 1993, the journal Environment Today named his process one of the ten promising research and development efforts that could change the face of pollution control.

An Analytic Marketing Tool

How do museum visitors evaluate their interactions with the technological aspects of exhibits? What makes a woman choose a tampon versus a pad? Jean Umiker-Sebeok, director of the Marketing Signs Research Division of the School of Library and Information Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, looks for answers to these disparate topics with the help of a qualitative analytical tool she has developed from the research areas of semiotics (the science of signs and symbols), cognitive science, and consumer behavior studies. SemioProbeSM is an effective way of revealing the emotional and cultural codes underlying the objects, words, music, images, and other signs consumers use to make sense of themselves and their world. Using an innovative image schemata analysis that consists of semantic network analysis, action network analysis, and value network analysis, SemioProbeSM delivers insight into what a product or communication means to consumers at many levels of experience, including the often overlooked emotional ones. This analytical tool reveals why these meanings are being communicated and what it would take to alter the product or communication to produce desired results. By working down to people's core values and examining the metaphors they use, this kind of image analysis also can help determine what new products a company might wish to develop.

Breaking Cells

A group of researchers from the Department of Biology at Indiana University Bloomington, Stefan J. Surzycki, associate professor of biology, Robert K. Togasaki, professor of biology, and Masahiko Kitayama, a graduate student—have discovered a new method for breaking cells. They have designed an apparatus that enables cells to be broken without destroying what is inside. It cannot only efficiently break intact cells of bacteria, plants, yeast, and fungi without heat generation, but the same device can randomly shear double-stranded DNA into uniform fragments of chosen size. This unique technology should be useful in large-scale DNA sequencing (determining the sequential order in which DNA molecules are arranged), as well as for DNA fingerprinting (for hospitals, clinics, and forensic laboratories). Commercially, this technology will be useful because current methods, which use enzymes for breaking cells, are quite expensive, whereas this apparatus makes the process more cost effective, easier, and milder.

Quality Services for Long-Term Health Care

How do you make sure of the quality of in-home health care services (such as homemaking, attendants for wheelchair services, etc.)? How do you make sure that the clients like the people who are providing the services? And how do you make sure the services that are being provided are appropriate for the needs of the client? Eleanor D. Kinney, a professor of law at the School of Law—Indianapolis, John F. Fitzgerald, an associate professor of medicine at the Department of Medicine; and Cynthia A. Loveland Cook and Jay A. Freedman, from the Veterans Administration Medical Center on the Indianapolis campus have teamed up with Tom Robison, from the Indiana Department of Family and Human Services in Indianapolis to design two quality assurance strategies that case managers can use on a laptop computer to assess the appropriateness of services provided. An individual care plan is developed by matching the needs of the client with the services paid for by the state and provided by the community and the client's own family. The evaluation of services and the feedback and communications between the providers and the clients have created a client-oriented, community-based, long-term quality-care program that helps control costs while making quality care available.

A Healthy Heart Yet

For the moment only mice have been used in the experiments, but the future holds the possibility that humans can have a healthy heart muscle cell grafted onto a diseased heart with no regenerative capacity. What does the feasibility of this intracardiac grafting mean? Besides a less invasive alternative to some types of conventional cardiac surgeries now performed, it also might have potential for development as a "biological pacemaker." Loren Field, an associate professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at the Krannert Institute of Cardiology, School of Medicine, has developed models that may provide a method for replacement of scarred, nonfunctional myocardium in a diseased heart with viable, functional cells. He also believes this process may reduce or eliminate the "border zone" between healthy and infarcted myocardium, which is known to contribute to arrhythmias.

Quickly Dissipating Fog

Many scientific instruments need an aerosol produced from a small sample solution. The aerosol is usually fed into a spray chamber, whose main function is to eliminate the big droplets and keep the small droplets. The small droplets can be transported more easily and more efficiently. In the past, spray chambers required considerable time to clear up after spraying because of the circulating fog. So Gary M. Hieftje, professor of chemistry, and Min Wu, his former graduate student, have designed a spray chamber that will clear the fog very fast, making it possible to run many more samples per hour. Earlier systems required between two and five minutes to clear out, whereas this new system requires only between two and five seconds to clear out, a gain of fifty to sixty times the number of samples that can be run per hour. The company that has licensed this technology will use it with a device called a plasma emission spectrometer, which is used for elemental analysis. The technology could be used for testing a number of solutions, for example, blood serum, cerebral spinal fluid, forensic samples, geological samples, pharmaceutical samples, and many more.

Technology Transfer Office

Much of this information in this article was provided by the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) at Indiana University Bloomington. TTO is responsible for the development and implementation of technology transfer policies and procedures for Indiana University and the protection of intellectual property. Serving as a centralized contact, the TTO's objectives are to stimulate the transfer or commercialization of intellectual property; to facilitate development of industrial collaboration; to provide education, resources, and assistance to IU faculty, students, and staff related to the identity and protection of intellectual property; and to manage the intellectual property and license portfolios. For more information, call (812) 855-7842.