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Award-winning innovations show a bright future for energy and health

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An innovation that speeds up pure oxygen production, a medical device that treats neck pain and technology that regenerates tissue in ulcers are the winners of the 2013 Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards.

Dr Dehua Dong and his team took out first place, creating a completely different approach for making membranes that can speed up the rate of extraction of oxygen out of a selected gas or liquid mixture.

Director of Curtin’s Office of IP Commercialisation, Rohan McDougall, said there was a strong market demand to replace the current process for making oxygen with a more cost-effective process.

He said that current membrane-based processes were too slow and therefore not commercially viable.

“The production of pure oxygen is a global business worth about $20 billion per year, used in a number of applications such as steel making, medicine, the production of liquid fuels and more environmentally friendly combustion of fossil fuels,” Mr McDougall said.

“Dr Dong and his team have innovated a way to produce a membrane structure that has the highest recorded oxygen flux and is also mechanically strong and durable.”

Mr Matthew Oldakowski and his colleagues were named runner-up for developing a novel spinal stabilisation implant, named the SZ Device, for use in the cervical spine to treat neck pain.

The innovation stands apart from other devices as it maintains some movement in the stabilised spinal segment and, therefore, does not require a bone graft during the fusion procedure.

“As a consequence, this innovation eliminates the need for fusion procedures, potentially reducing trauma, surgical complications and cost,” Mr McDougall said.

The Early Research Career Award was presented to Ms Elizabeth Grenik and her team for developing an innovation that addresses chronic wound healing such as diabetic foot ulcers.

The bioactive synthetic hydrogel scaffold can be applied to wounds, not only providing physical support for the wound but also the ability to regenerate tissues with biochemical signals in the same way the body does naturally through its own regeneration scaffold.

“Diabetic foot ulcers are responsible for more hospitalisations than any other complication of diabetes, with current healing techniques including compression bandaging and topical creams not sufficient enough to completely heal the wound,” Mr McDougall said.

“This innovation has the ability to provide complete healing of ulcers and, in turn, will reduce the number of patients needing to be hospitalised.”

The Awards were established in 2007 and aim to identify new technologies, products or services arising from research at Curtin.

Prizes for this year totalled more than $40,000 in cash and in commercialisation services provided by the award’s sponsors.

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