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STTR Phase I: Microfluidic Technology for Full-Page Digital Braille & Tactile Graphics Display

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1913671
Agency Tracking Number: 1913671
Amount: $224,999.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: EW
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-06-15
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-05-31
Small Business Information
United States
DUNS: 058811686
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Alexander Russomanno
 (703) 582-1874
Business Contact
 Alexander Russomanno
Phone: (703) 582-1874
Research Institution
 University of Michigan Ann Arbor
 Brent Gillespie
3003 South State St. Room 1062
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to reduce the burden of accessing information for the 1.5 million blind people in the United States by making a full page of refreshable braille text and tactile graphics available in a device resembling a tablet computer. This assistive technology will provide increased access to braille and enable blind students to read digitized spatial content including mathematical equations, graphs, and figures with their fingers, creating parity with their sighted counterparts interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The proposed product will improve braille literacy, opportunities in STEM careers, and ultimately lead to the employment success and independence of blind Americans. This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project relies on microfluidic technology to create a highly manufacturable device that combines an underlying rigid layer supplying pneumatic signals and an overlying soft layer containing membrane actuators at braille spacing. The successful commercialization of a full-page refreshable braille and tactile graphic display requires very tight packaging, high refresh rates, and a materials/manufacturing solution that scales gracefully to a tablet-size product. The proposed solution harnesses existing capabilities in the microfluidics lab-on-a-chip industry and deploys pneumatic actuators to achieve a scalable design. The development project involves identifying compromises to device refresh rates by characterizing timing constraints of the integrated microfluidic chips and membrane actuators. The results of the technical objectives will demonstrate the scalability of the innovation for achieving a full-page refreshable braille and tactile graphics display. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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