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Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering News

College of Engineering Professors Receive an IGEM Award to Collaborate with Local Industry

Nader Rafla and Peter Mullner

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Dr. Nader Rafla and Materials Science and Engineering Professor Dr. Peter Mullner received a $418,330 Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) award to support the development of a smart micropump.

The IGEM grant program supports research collaborations between university researchers and business experts to create new technologies for commercial use. Dr. Rafla and Dr. Mullner will partner with the Boise State startup company Shaw Mountain Technology LLC and AceCo Precision Manufacturing to develop a magnetic shape memory (MSM) micropump for the research laboratory and drug delivery markets.

MSM alloys are typically a combination of nickel, manganese, and gallium. These alloys create ferromagnetic materials that can shape shift when near a magnet. Apply a magnetic field, and the material responds with a shape change. Remove the field, and the new shape remains. Apply a different magnetic field and the material re-forms into a new shape. Do this quickly and with purpose and a small motor or pump can be created. Thus, the material is the machine. The IGEM award will help researchers and their business partners create an electromagnetic drive system for the MSM Micropump. The goal is to develop a complete pumping system with no moving parts. The electromagnetic drive system and closed loop control will improve the pumping precision. This technology can be used to integrate components of a drug delivery system into a single chip. It can also be used for DNA sequencing or biochemical detection. This lab-on-a-chip platform is based on microfluidics technology, which is the science and engineering of fluid flow in microscale.

Boise State University has already licensed three patents on MSM technology to Shaw Mountain Technology. The startup company is currently beta testing the MSM micropump in research laboratories. “I envision the Treasure Valley as the home of (i) the first company that commercializes MSM technology and (ii) a growing new industry of smart material micro-devices. All my scholarly activities will support this vision” says Dr. Mullner, founder of Shaw Mountain Technology.

Celebrating 20 years at Boise State, the College of Engineering educates high-quality engineers who can strengthen the local workforce. This IGEM project is an excellent opportunity for the College to partner with local businesses to create new products, support local companies, and provide high-value jobs in Idaho.

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