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Two Western New England University Engineering Professors Awarded Grants

SPRINGFIELD — Two professors at Western New England University have been awarded $30,000 in seed funding by the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) Acorn Innovation Fund. 

Dr. Vedang Chauhan and Dr. Jingzhou “Frank” Zhao were among 13 grant recipients statewide, including researchers from Boston University Medical Center, Northeastern University, Tufts University, and UMass. The funding is designed to assist researchers in testing the viability of their technologies and potentially bringing the research to market.

The Acorn Awards are funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and overseen by MTTC, enabling public and private research universities and medical centers in Massachusetts to lead the nation in translating basic research to the market, creating jobs and spurring economic development.

This year’s recipients, selected from a field of 53 applicants, were chosen based on a project’s technical merit, commercial viability, project plan, and strength of team, according to Vinit Nijhawan, interim executive director of MTTC.

“The strength of the selected projects demonstrates that Massachusetts leads the nation in translating basic research to the market,” he said. 

Chauhan, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, said he is researching “design and control system optimization testing of an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (E-CVT) system for small engine applications.” Continuously variable transmission technology is widely used in modern vehicles to improve fuel efficiency and performance. However, small engines currently cannot meet power requirements to utilize the technology. Chauhan’s goal is to build, implement, and test an E-CVT system for small engines, evaluating endurance, reliability, and performance.

Zhao, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, leads the College of Engineering’s Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Processing Lab. The grant funding, he said, will support a project covering “production of silica-coated metal nanoparticles using electrospraying,” a technology that holds the potential to achieve much lower manufacturing costs and much higher throughput than existing methods. Acorn funding will support the research activities of Zhao’s team to obtain proof-of-concept evidence.

MTTC accelerates research commercialization at Massachusetts public and private research institutions. The center enables the state’s universities and medical centers to translate basic research to the market by connecting science and technology to a pool of business talent and capital. MTTC was founded in 2003 by the Massachusetts Legislature.

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