Patents help put research into practice

Justin Barone’s project does more than just turn chicken feathers into plastic — it turns research findings into economic gains for the commonwealth.

Justin Barone’s project does more than just turn chicken feathers into plastic — it turns
research findings into economic gains for the commonwealth.

The research conducted at Virginia Tech affords opportunities for researchers to patent their inventions, investigative findings, and other intellectual property while bringing their leading-edge research to an audience beyond the university.

In fiscal year 2014, Virginia Tech had 25 patents issued, seven of which came from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — meaning one-quarter of all patents granted to Virginia Tech originated from the college. Patent holders can add value to research initiatives by forming startup companies to incubate ideas.

As a land-grant university, Virginia Tech is committed to finding answers to society’s most pressing problems, whether they are discovering new energy sources, making a sustainable fiber, or reinventing established scientific boundaries. Patenting intellectual property allows faculty members to promote their own research while serving their constituencies.

Recent new patent holders include: 

  • Boris Vinatzer, associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, recently patented a genome-based naming sequence.
  • Justin Barone, associate professor of biological systems engineering, patented a process that takes agricultural waste products — chicken feathers — and turns them into plastic.
  • Associate Professor Percival Zhang, also in biological systems engineering, developed a battery that runs on sugar.
  • Thomas Kuhar, professor of entomology, patented a method for deterring one of the commonwealth’s most damaging agricultural pests — the brown marmorated stink bug.
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