GOOD STUFF - Helping Military Dogs do their job better !!
Military finds use for local chemist’s invention
Thermal-energy product can help improve performance of bomb-sniffing dogs
By Patrick Rupinski Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
TUSCALOOSA Bomb-sniffing dogs used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan have become more effective thanks to research developed on the University of Alabama campus.
Inventor and chemist Rusty Sutterlin created a thermal-energy product that can be used in textiles to help keep body temperatures at a desired level.
The material has been used in vests that the military puts on its bomb-
Sutterlin developed his product and other inventions at the University of
Alabama’s AIME Building, which houses a technology incubator that helps entrepreneurs develop new technologies and then bring those technologies to market.
AIME, which stands for Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs, held a Friday open house at which investors and businesspeople interested in the developing technologies got to hear and see some of the work being done at the technology incubator.
Sutterlin said the thermal-energy products use similar dynamics to ice. Ice melts as it absorbs the heat around it, he said. Ice forms as it absorbs the cold around it.
Based on that observation, Sutterlin developed a thermal-energy product that could absorb outside heat in hot conditions and outside cold in cool conditions.
The material is incorporated into vests for the Army’s dogs and can be used in clothing, too.
Terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan realized the Army’s bomb-sniffing dogs became less effective during the heat of the day, he said. When dogs get hot, they pant and their ability to effectively sniff out explosives diminishes.
The terrorists thus could gain an advantage during that time. But the special vests have countered that threat by keeping the dogs cool and better able to do their jobs, he said.
The material also can be used in thermal mugs to keep coffee at its most desired temperature, as well as in liquor and wine bottles. Other uses for the material include clothing, packaging and even insulating buildings where the goal would be to keep interiors at a consistent temperature while reducing heating and air conditioning costs.
Sutterlin has licensed the use of some of his patented thermal-energy developments through Entropy Solutions, which incorporates the technology into marketable products.
He has other young research companies in the incubator, including one that is working on converting algae and pond scum into jet fuel.
Sutterlin, a native of Gardendale in northern Jefferson County, received a bachelor’s degree from Troy State University (now Troy University) and did his graduate studies at the University of Missouri. He said he started in a technology incubator in Missouri but chose to move his work to UA’s incubator.
“I am from Alabama and this is my home,” he said.
He said he also has found UA to be more friendly and encouraging in helping the high-tech start-ups in its incubator.
UA is competitive in its cost, he said.
Sutterlin, whose start-up research companies operate as Sutterlin Research, rents two laboratories in the AIME building, where he conducts his research. Being on campus also allows him to get advice and help from faculty members and researchers, plus hire students whose career interests complement the research.
Dan Daly, director of AIME, said the goal of the technology incubator is to help the start-up companies whose discoveries will be in the products of the future.
The incubator companies will have few employees but need help to grow.
The goal is that the company will outgrow the incubator and seek a larger facility for its work and increased staff.
“Our interest is for helping in economic development, so we want them to stay in Alabama, preferably in Tuscaloosa,” Daly said.
Sutterlin agreed with that philosophy. He said he saw no need to go to cities like New York or Chicago to develop technology.
“We have a fine pool of researchers right here at the university and around the state that we can pull from,” he said.
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