Inventors work to guard against burns, explosions and cancer

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Nicole Shepard, News Editor @NicoleEShepard


UVU will be seeking investors for three new inventions on Tuesday, May 7 in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah’s Innovation Showcase.


The showcased technologies are a cool-handled Dutch oven, an energy producing molten salt reactor and a cancer detection system; all engineered in association with UVU.


“We’re all very proud and very excited,” Kent Millington, director of the Technology Commercialization Office, said. “We have a lot of faith in these products and feel confident that they will receive the attention they deserve.”


Dr. Timothy Doyle, assistant professor of physics, will present his cancer detection system. Doyle has spent years working on the technology to detect the difference between healthy cells and cancerous cells using a distinctive ultrasound technique.

Dr Doyle


What originated as actual rocket science was transformed into a medical breakthrough when Doyle’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.


“While I was hiking [after her diagnosis]… the idea came to me that my work could be applied to diagnosing cancer…” Doyle said to the UVU Magazine.


Doyle’s dissertation work on detecting the “health” of rocket material, coupled with the research performed by UVU student Laurel Thompson, was transformed into a way to know which cells are cancerous and which are healthy, removing the need for multiple lumpectomies.


A request for patent on the new technology was submitted on May 1 with Doyle’s work already generating buzz from the medical world, having won Utah’s Entrepreneurial Challenge’s award for best new technology.


“It’s promising. People are already in love with the product,” Millington said. “We all know someone who has been impacted by [breast cancer], or someone who will be so it’s very relevant.”


The TCO will also take a molten salt reactor plan to pitch to investors on May 7, a nuclear fission reactor that takes its name from the molten salt mixture, which acts as a primary coolant in the reactor.  This reactor uses thorium, a chemical element that is more abundant and less dangerous than uranium, which is commonly used to create nuclear power.


In the 1930s molten salt reactors were brought to the table as an energy source, but were shot down because they weren’t capable of producing weapons-grade materials. Over the last 70 to 80 years the technology has been largely ignored.


Facing a demand for “green” power, many scientists are revisiting molten salt reactors for answers and inventor Sheldon Hansen will present his new design as one of the very first in the industry.


“A reactor that could fit in a 10 by 10 room could generate enough power to light up Utah County,” Millington said. “Six could power the entire state. This technology has the potential to remove the need for coal and nuclear power entirely for much less money, resources and risk.”


This technology is particularly meaningful in places like Beijing and Beirut where pollution from coal-fueled power has reached such dangerous levels that it has claimed lives.


Molten salt reactors—with little pollution and no risk of explosion—last longer, produce more power, and are safer when compared to coal and the light water reactors currently used to generate nuclear power.


“Tragedies like those seen in Fukushima and Three Mile Island don’t have to happen,” Millington said. “Molten salts reactors aren’t pressurized at all, there is no water involved and thus no steam, and so they can’t blow up.”


UVU is working jointly with Utah State University in producing Hansen’s invention, working to obtain grants to build the prototype.


The TCO’s more mainstream consumer product, the Cool-Handed Dutch Oven, is already in production and looking to expand with manufacturing companies.


UVU instructor and alumni, John Gilbert, has successfully tested the new design and will present the invention at the showcase.


“The cool-handle Dutch oven has a handle that can be removed and slots that lock the lid onto the pot,” Gilbert said, “guarding against burning and improve the oven’s stability.”


Inventors will know Tuesday, May 7 whether or not they will have investors for their products.


Finished Dutch Oven