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ChE Medical Devices Project Selected as Chunhui Cup Finalist

October 18, 2017

Northeastern University faculty and students in the Department of Chemical Engineering won one of Second Prizes of the 12th Annual Chunhuibei (Chunhui) Cup Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition and received the award at the Consulate General of People’s Republic of China in New York City. Research Assistant Professor Linlin Sun, Department Chair and Professor Thomas Webster, and chemical engineering student Cungu Cao are part of a six-person interdisciplinary team developing the Wearable Nano-Piezoelectric Sensors for Neck Movement and Detection Device. This team also includes Ke Li from Harvard University, Zhongyu Miao from Fulcrum, LLC, and Lingnan Su from GE Healthcare.

The Chunhui Cup is a competition for Chinese overseas students and scholars, which has been held annually since 2006, co-sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science and Technology and organised by CSCSE.  Its goal is to boost entrepreneurship among Chinese students and to pave the way for them to establish high-tech enterprises when they return to China. The competition covers eight fields: electronic information; biomedicine; culture, creativity and modern services; energy and efficiency; optical manufacturing; new materials, resources and the environment; and agricultural science and technology.

Says Dr. Sun, “The competition is very competitive and we had to submit a business plan for our proposed company. I headlined the project and was named the CEO, if a company was to be established. Since we have won the Second Prize, we will soon be heading to China where we will get to interact with numerous investors and venture capitalists which will enable us to commercialise our idea. The platform this competition offers is unmatched because of the magnanimity of its approach.”

The Nano Piezoelectric sensor, as fancy as it sounds, has its application in something very routine to the common man. Says Sun, “This sensor is made for the texting neck. The texting neck is a posture outcome of the 21st century. People young and old look into their phones, books and tablets at a particular angle which creates stress in the neck muscles leading to stiffness in the neck or shoulder in a large population. What people fail to realise is that these are all inducible symptoms of cervical spondylosis. This wearable device with high flexibility is composed of three main parts: the nano-piezoelectric sensor, the circuit board, and a phone app currently being developed at Harvard. What we aim to do with the device app is to set an alarm to remind the person to keep a good posture, avoid looking down with one’s head bent for prolonged time, and set exercise games for neck and back muscles for rehabilitation.”

Prof. Thomas Webster who mentored Linlin throughout this project says, “The team did really well and I was more than happy to guide Linlin. I work with two labs in China myself and I am aware what a big opportunity this is. Nanoparticles are the future of diagnostics and treatment and we are thrilled to carry out cutting edge research in this domain at Northeastern University.”