Throughout its entire history, the CTF Design contest has done its part to bring out the best technologies for the future. However, there was a twist this year: For the first time in its illustrious history, the contest saw the finalists in each of the seven categories pitch their ideas live to a team of judges, who in turn evaluated the presentations and selected the Grand Prize winner based on a pre-determined scoring system.

Each finalist had 10 minutes to pitch their idea, followed by a three-minute Q&A with the judges. The top prizes in the 2023 edition — including the Grand Prize winner, who bagged an award of $25,000, and the winners in seven categories, who won an HP workstation computer — were doled out on November 10 in the heart of New York City.

The CTF contest was established in 2002 to recognize and reward engineering innovations that benefit society and the global economy. This year it received over 500 entries from engineers, students, and entrepreneurs in 60 countries worldwide.

A research team from Neuropair, Inc., won the Grand Prize for an innovative approach to spinal cord repair that gives new hope to the 700,000 people worldwide who suffer severe spinal cord injuries each year. The injectable scaffold of aligned magnetic nanoparticles creates conditions for protecting, healing, and regrowing neurons that were damaged during spinal cord injury. The winning team includes Johannes Dapprich, Elaine Brock, Jay Trautman, Jason Puchalla, Eve Tsai, Ann Parr, Brian Hoffman, and William S. Brown.

"Listening to all the talks — they were all absolutely amazing," said Dr. Johannes Dapprich, NeuroPair CEO, in his acceptance speech. "The presentations and applications that they have in mind — I think anybody else could have won this just as well. I'm speechless, thank you very much. This is a really great competition."

The platinum sponsors for the CTF contest were COMSOL and Mouser Electronics, along with supporting sponsors Analog Devices and Intel. The Gold sponsors included maxon, parvalux by maxon, Zeus, TE Connectivity, Z by HP and NVIDIA.

Here are the winners of the 2023 contest.

Grand Prize Winner

NeuroPair: A New Treatment Approach for Spinal Cord Injury

The treatment would be applied after the initial, standard stabilization of spinal cord injury (SCI): The surgeon injects the sterile formulation into the injury site and places a ‘magnetic mouse’ directly on top of the injury site.

SCI afflicts 17,000 Americans and 700,000 people worldwide each year. Prognoses are often tragic, and social costs exceed $2 million in the first 5 years of care. For decades, the dream of repairing the spinal cord has been elusive. Recent studies, however, show that new axonal growth and formation of functional circuits are possible under the right conditions: a favorable biophysical environment in direct contact with surviving nerve endings. Chances for recovery increase greatly if such an environment can be provided rapidly after injury.

Dr. Johannes Dapprich, CEO of NeuroPair, is presented with a $25,000 award from COMSOL President Bernt Nillson.

NeuroPair's fast and minimally invasive approach generates an injectable scaffold of aligned magnetic nanoparticles to create conditions for protecting, healing, and regrowing neurons that were damaged during SCI. The scaffold guides the direction of neuronal regrowth and may help enable recovery from SCI.

Because shape and condition of SCIs vary so much, one-size-fits-all approaches are very unlikely to succeed. NeuroPair’s injectable hydrogel formulation addresses these needs by perfectly filling any irregular shape of the injury site, generating a flexible fiber scaffold with cellular contact for neuronal regeneration within minutes, suppressing scar formation, and being compatible with other treatment options (such as stem cells, neuroprotective and bioactive growth factors, epidural stimulation, and MRI). No other approach like this exists.

For more information, visit here .

Aerospace & Defense

Zulu Pods: The World's First Decentralized Lubrication System

Zulu Pods is the world's first decentralized lubrication system that combines the function of a reservoir, pump, and nozzle into a single, self-contained, hermetically sealed, packaged oil delivery system. The Zulu Pod is lighter, placed right in the working zone of the engine bearing or gear compartment, and meters the exact amount of lubrication for optimal performance.

Zulu Pods can be used for primary lubrication for limited life engines or backup lubrication during a loss of lubrication event.

For more information, visit here .


Ganaio High-Output Regenerative Damper

Producing an average 2,000 Watts of constant power, a Ganaio damper set generates up to an additional 12 percent driving range on an electric vehicle. Using Faraday's Law of Induction, the fully patented Ganaio damper is engineered to the highest magnetic field density attainable within the space of any given suspension architecture, while maintaining a simple design for manufacturing and assembly. A direct replacement of the existing damper, a Ganaio damper is integrated into any vehicle, unaffecting the suspension architecture and general assembly at the factory.

Ganaio allows vehicle manufacturers to reduce the cost of energy while also creating a higher demand for electric vehicles based on longer driving range. The current market price for a Li-ion battery pack is at least $200/kWh. A Ganaio damper set only costs $26/kWh for the equivalent battery energy density.

For more information, visit here .


Safely Watch and Prioritize Maintenance With AI-deep Learning and Low Cost Passive RF Wireless Vibratory Strain Sensors

Operating revenue-generating assets in harsh environments poses safety and financial risks. For example, catastrophic wind turbine blade failures are costing $1.5 billion a year to fleet owners and operators across 700,000 blades in operation globally (Wind Power Engineering, 2018), and safety incidents have increased by 22.3 percent on wind farms (Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organization). Sensatek discovered that passive Radio Frequency-based (RF) wireless dynamic strain sensors are a promising technology to help safely watch assets used in harsh environments, such as trending crack growth on wind turbine blades to help eliminate 3,800 blade failures occurring annually (Engineering News Record).

This technology has many applications besides wind turbines and includes airframes, gas turbines, space launch vehicles, electric machines, bridges, and natural gas pipelines, presenting a total global market opportunity of $11.6 billion (BCC Research) within the industrial, aerospace, and automotive markets. There is interest from companies such as GE, Lockheed Martin, Siemens Energy, Pratt & Whitney, and large utilities in piloting the technology.

For more information, visit here .


TenseFlatables: 3D Printed Tensegrity-Assisted Inflatable Structures

TenseFlatables have the potential to significantly outperform conventional inflatables in their form and functionality. The ability to create lightweight structures reliant on pressurized air can enable the design of novel multifunctional technologies for use as automotive, aircraft, and spacecraft components that help reduce fuel consumption. Their deploy-and-stow ability makes them ideal for aerospace and hypersonic deployable supports and decelerators. Further, their advanced functionality can be harnessed to improve the efficacy of biomedical procedures such as Balloon Kyphoplasty, Vertebroplasty, Rectum Balloon Implant, and to replace the subacromial balloon spacers currently used during rotator cuff repair surgery. Further, modified TenseFlatables, where air is replaced by a hydrogel that swells in reaction to stomach juices, are well suited for application as inflatable pills for cancer and infection monitoring.

For more information, visit here .


Patchflow-Robotics for In-Pipe Leak Repair

The frequency of droughts has increased by nearly a third globally since 2000. A UN report states that 75% of the world could face drought by 2050, and 5.7 billion people could live in areas with water shortages for a month or more every year. Water scarcity due to climate change alone will necessitate a reduction in leakage.

London was chosen as the location of focus for this project, as it has one of the earliest piped water distribution systems in the world. With more than half of pipes in London over 100 years old and made of corrosion-prone cast iron. This makes London an ideal candidate for the proposed system as it represents a well-developed city where the water leak issues are already the most advanced.

The majority of R&D occurring within the UK’s potable water industry revolves around the detection and location of leaks even though this only accounts for 20 percent of the repair process’s cost. Most of this cost in repair is associated with the shutting down of busy travel routes. The product's USP is its non-disruptive nature, meaning that the water companies can negate the need to pay expensive council charges associated with closing roads.

For more information, visit here. 


Leakproof Valve

Valves often develop leaks as they age. This is disruptive, wasteful, and can cause damage in residential settings, but can be far more problematic in industrial applications such as petrochemical, hydrogen, and semiconductor plants. Leaking valves can cause fires, explosions, environmental hazards, and safety hazards. The leak-proof valve is welded shut and actuated magnetically. There is no potential path for liquids or gasses to propagate out of the valve housing. Furthermore, by using multiple instances of this valve in a network, any arbitrary level of system reliability such as six sigma can be achieved.

The valve is unique in that it can withstand high temperatures, including welding the bonnet shut and welding or soldering the pipes connecting to the valve if so desired. No previous magnetic valve could achieve this performance, and there are now six U.S. and 13 international patents on this technology.

For more information, visit here .


A Salivary Test for Brain Health

Neurological emergencies are common and often devastating. Every year, millions of Americans suffer from either an acute stroke, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), hemorrhage, or spinal cord injury severe enough to require medical intervention. Evaluation of diseases in the acute setting frequently requires advanced diagnostics and treatment in a hospital or specialized center. Neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Parkinson's, Alzheimer's diseases) require imaging and repeated testing, even though body fluid biomarkers are on the horizon. These are likely based on blood tests, which are unpractical, somewhat invasive, and require medical personnel and equipment.

The goal of the project is to develop devices for rapid point-of-care measurement in the salivary fluid of the brain-derived protein S100B or other suitable protein analytes in individuals at risk of neurological diseases. The IP covers all brain proteins measurable in saliva with a molecular weight of less than 60 kD. This invention is based on the discovery of brain-derived protein that will show up in saliva based on an algorithm developed by the team.

For more information, visit here .

For the full list of winners and honorable mentions, visit here .