Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

8-29-05

Contacts:

Chris Blau, Vibroacoustics Solutions, Inc., (319) 415-0763

Atul Kelkar, mechanical engineering, (515) 294-0788

Carey Novak, Institute for Physical Research and Technology, (515) 294-2293

Robert Mills, Institute for Physical Research and Technology, (515) 294-1113

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917

Iowa State spin-off company wins grant for noise-reduction technology

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University spin-off company has won a $440,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop its unique noise-reduction technologies.

Vibroacoustics Solutions, Inc. is developing a smart material that has passive and active noise-reduction capabilities. The material is made from a composite of polymer and natural fibers such as hemp. It can help control noise in products such as home appliances, doors and office furniture as well as agricultural and construction machinery, automobiles and aircraft.

"There is a multi-billion dollar market for the products to which our technology can be applied," said Atul Kelkar, a company co-founder, the company's chief technology officer and a professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State.

The company will use the two-year award to develop a prototype and pursue collaborations with Iowa companies such as Maytag, HNI Corp. and Deere & Co.

"Our technology will help these Iowa companies develop innovative products with reduced noise and vibration," Kelkar said. He also said commercialization of the technology could provide a natural fiber market for agricultural crops grown in Iowa.

The company's composite of polymer and natural fibers has many advantages, Kelkar said. "It can be formed into a wide variety of shapes and densities using conventional forming technology," he said. "While it inherently has excellent acoustic properties, the addition of specially designed structures and precise control on the layering and density of the composite material can significantly enhance the material's noise-reduction capabilities."

The company also embeds active control technology into its material using a layer that generates voltage in response to pressure. That layer works with an amplifier, power supply and control system to cancel out or dampen incoming sound waves.

"Since these passive and active technologies are complementary -- one is better suited for low frequencies and one for high frequencies -- a much more robust technology can be developed," Kelkar said.

The company was founded in late 2003 by Kelkar and Ken Budke, a dentist from Cedar Falls, Iowa. The company has also received assistance from Pappajohn entrepreneur centers at Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa. And it has recently moved from office space at the Iowa State University Research Park to an office in Ames.

The company's award was made through the Small Business Innovation Research program. Carey Novak, a technology transfer associate at Iowa State's Institute for Physical Research and Technology, worked closely with the company on its grant proposal.

Novak cites Vibroacoustics Solutions, Inc. as a great example of how the institute helps launch new companies in Iowa.

"We often work with entrepreneurs long before their company is officially founded, connecting them with research funding and finding potential partners and customers," Novak said. "It's a long road between an idea and a successful product, especially those with a substantial amount of technical content. We can make the trip faster and easier for Iowa entrepreneurs."

The Institute for Physical Research and Technology is a network of scientific research centers at Iowa State. Through its company assistance efforts, the institute helps Iowa companies solve technical problems, create new products and increase productivity and quality. More information about the institute can be found at http://www.iprt.iastate.edu.

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Quick look

Vibroacoustics Solutions, Inc. is developing a smart material that can reduce noise in appliances, machinery, automobiles and planes.

Quote

"There is a multi-billion dollar market for the products to which our technology can be applied."

Atul Kelkar, Iowa State professor of mechanical engineering and the chief technology officer of Vibroacoustics Solutions, Inc.