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April 14, 2016

Three MSU researchers celebrated as top innovators

Three Michigan State University professors have been recognized for their accomplishments in innovative technology and research during the sixth annual MSU Innovation Celebration.

The center recognizes the MSU Innovator of the Year, Innovation of the Year and an award for Technology Transfer Achievement. Commended for their perseverance and creativity at the MSU Innovation Celebration, awardees are presented with plaques and a cash prize.

“The road to creating something new is a long process that requires hard work, dedication and immense creativity. The technologies and companies being created by MSU faculty and students are something that needs to be shared with our community and the world,” said Charles Hasemann, assistant vice president for innovation & economic development at MSU and the Innovation Center's executive director. “These prolific inventors and thinkers are creating technologies that will improve the way people live and create a better quality of life."

The award for Innovation of the Year went to Bruno Basso, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, for his work in cropland evaluation and crop growth management.

Intensive agricultural practices raise serious concerns about human’s ability to raise agricultural productivity while maintaining the sustainability of row-crop production systems. In order to tackle this problem, Basso created algorithms and software involving advanced crop system models that incorporate plant physiology to predict the impact of weather, soil and management practices on crop yield.

His approach is to integrate diverse disciplines to understand the overall agricultural systems and to improve decision-making across a broad spectrum of stakeholders, from the smallholder farmer in the developing world to the industrial producer and policy maker at all scales.

The 2016 Innovator of the Year is Gemma Reguera, a professor in microbiology and molecular genetics, for her work in biproducts from waste through microbial electrochemical reactors.

Geobacter bacteria transfer electrons to external electron accepters in order to gain energy for growth. This process has the potential to assist in remediation of radioactive and toxic metals and in generation of renewable energy. Gemma Regeura and her lab are developing Geobacter and their proteins for both purposes.

Reguera’s efforts to further develop microbial electrochemical reactors with other substances can be used to formulate industrial products such as composites, adhesives, laminates and polyesters. Reguera has filed 8 invention disclosures with MSU since 2010.

The 2016 MSU Technology Transfer Achievement Award went to Jes Asmussen, University Distinguished Professor in electrical and computer engineering for his work in microwave plasma machines and processes to produce synthetic diamonds.

Asmussen holds nearly 50 national and international patents in the field of microwave technology and microwave processing. These methods have been critical to the advance of the semiconductor industry.

Microwave energy generates unique properties for a variety of gas plasma processes.  Conventional microwave plasma reactors are often limited at both high and low pressure extremes due to minimal tuning and control capability. Yet Asmussen’s design incorporates proprietary internal tuning and precise control of microwave mode and plasma conditions, which enables operation at the extremes for desired plasma applications.

Asmussen’s microwave reactor technology was successfully licensed to Microwave Enterprises of Morrisville, North Carolina. This advanced equipment is used in the deposition and growth of polycrystalline and single-crystal diamond used in industrial, scientific and gemstone applications.