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entire process takes only seconds to complete. The polymer fits
smoothly against the skull and creates a surface with no sharp
edges. This is the only such product on the market made totally
of polymers, therefore causing no interference with future CT
scans or MRIs.
The Cranial Loop was met with enthusiasm at the World Con-
gress of Neurological Surgeons in Boston in September, 2009,
says Chico: “Surgeons said, ‘Finally, there’s a new fix to help make
Ascamm worked closely with the product developers to create
the appropriate manufacturing conditions necessar y for a poly-
mer device of such a small size, with miniscule edges for closure.
“We were limited by manufacturing,” says Chico. “[Ascamm] engi-
neers studied the mold, the process for injection, and the plastic
itself. With their help, we were able to convince manufacturers
that it was possible.”
That microinjection process will find a major market, notes
Ascamm Director of Corporate Development Myriam Garcia-
Berro: “There’s a tendency towards miniaturization that those
in the medical field are demanding, and in electronics as well ...
and there isn’t a great deal of knowledge or technology yet on
According to Chico, these two products have applications for
additional cranial and spinal surgeries. Shape-changing material
could be used, for instance, in minimally invasive spinal surgery,
where the product could be implanted while tightly coiled, then
expand, wa r med by the patient’s body heat, to a deg ree specified
to decompress an area of the spine.
Neos Surgery is already selling its products in nine countries
in Europe, and it plans to expand internationally.
FUTURE OF FOOD
In a stark white building, with light flooding the windows and
through glass walls into the offices and labs, Ainia scientists are
investigating several aspects of food production and monitoring
and applying lessons learned from food research to other sectors.
Says Miguel Blasco, Director of Research and Development, “The
design of the building represents our center’s philosophy: clarity,
transparency, and integ ration.”
Ainia’s scientists have been working with food companies in the
Valencia region and around Spain for decades, undertaking proj-
ects like helping vintners ensure more consistently high-quality
wine production, and improving packaging to prevent spoilage
of lettuce greens. The center today operates on an international
scale, offering its ser vices and research expertise on topics related
to food quality and safety.
Ainia has developed a test for microorganisms that can yield
results in only 10 hours instead of three weeks. It is working on
methods of identifying contamination using biosensors, and is
also cooperating in the development of cameras with multispectral
vision to classify ag ricultural products and identify defects or con-
tamination in them. The nearby research center Aido, meanwhile,
is providing the optical technolog y expertise for machine vision.
The packaging and logistics center Itene has employed its
nanoparticles division to investigate improved food packaging,
leading an EU project to develop materials that will include a
microbial agent to extend shelf life. Itene researchers are also
developing an intelligent packaging system, which in the future
may include radio frequency tags for a shipment’s location and
conductive inks to communicate the temperature of a container,
helping to prevent a shipment of produce from getting too war m
and spoiling. “So far, this new system is expensive, but I think
it will get to the market in a few years,” says Car men Sanchez,
Itene’s associate director, “because it’s expensive for companies
now to solve these problems when they occur.”
Active packages like these are also a prime research focus of
the National Center for Food Technology and Safety (CNTA).
Originally born of an association of companies devoted to veg-
etables, the center has since expanded to work with companies
across all aspects of food production.
The food industry hopes to use more food-derived antiox-
idants, such as resveratrol from g rapes, both for their health
benefits and to prevent spoilage. So CNTA researchers have
been working to develop ways to stabilize these compounds by
micro- and nano-encapsulation. The resulting process could
either protect the compounds during the transportation phase,
until they are integrated into the food, or encapsulate them until
their coating is destroyed in the stomach. These processes are
currently being patented, and CNTA is spinning off a company
to market the results.
As focus on renewable energy and reducing greenhouse g ases con-
tinues to grow worldwide, Cidaut has turned its attention to a
technology that already has reached a wide international market:
the solar-powered water heater. The basic technology consists of
collecting the sun’s rays to heat water, then using that hot water for
the building’s needs. Cidaut’s Merino says there are many improve-
ments in efficiency to be made, which could provide significant
savings by heating more water in a smaller space at a lower cost.
After five years of research, Cidaut has patented a new system with
an improved heat-absorbing material, embedded with nanoparti-
cles that allow for advanced absorption. Cidaut has also tweaked
the fluid dynamics, the heat transfer system, and the panel’s heat-
retaining ability. The company that commissioned this research—
which, because the panels are not yet on the market, does not
wish to be named—already has the capacity to produce more than
100,000 panels a year.
This improvement of existing technology also propelled
Cidaut’s biomass project. Such waste-to-energ y systems are
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