SBIR Phase I: Diaphonic Valve on a Chip, Harvesting Energy From Audio to Couple Communications Into the Ear

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1046625
Agency Tracking Number: 1046625
Amount: $150,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2011
Solicitation Year: 2010
Solicitation Topic Code: IC
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
1257 Whitehall, Longmont, CO, 80504-2668
DUNS: 962443748
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Robert Schulein
 (303) 748-4621
Business Contact
 Robert Schulein
Title: NoDegr
Phone: (303) 748-4621
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project, Diaphonic Valve on a Chip, Harvesting Energy from Audio to Couple Communications into the Ear, studies production of chip-like substrates containing Diaphonic Valves. These components harvest energy from audio communications for the purpose of inflating a coupling device in a user's ear. The inflatable coupling is being developed for communications systems (Multimedia Players, Bluetooth headsets, hearing aids, and communications headsets), but the key to making it all work is the Diaphonic Valve. Present embodiments of diaphonic valves are small but macroscopic devices that work in conjunction with an electrically-actuated acoustic sound source. This project will improve understanding of the mechanics of the Diaphonic Valve, miniaturize its mechanism, and organizing Diaphonic Valves on chips for efficient manufacturing and utilization. The inflatable coupling of a communications device to the ear, which is enabled by the Diaphonic Valve, addresses longstanding problems with in-ear devices. This ear-coupling technology is more comfortable than any currently on the market, produces extremely high fidelity audio, reduces listener fatigue and protects from hearing damage, and is less expensive than alternative ear couplings of similar quality like custom ear molds used in hearing aids. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is revolutionary new person-to-audio couplings in consumer audio, Bluetooth headsets, hearing aids, and headsets for professional communications (such as pilots, law enforcement, and military applications). This technology has the ability to reduce listener fatigue and hearing damage in the population using in-ear devices, as well as making hearing aids more comfortable for people who already have hearing loss. The strategy to bring this technology to these various markets is to partner with established companies, thereby capitalizing on established sales channels and customer name recognition. The unique system components of the technology (the inflatable ear coupling bubbles and the Diaphonic Valves) will be manufactured and supplied to companies that have licensed the technology. The market for this technology in the hearing aid sector alone could be $5M to $20M in five years. Consumer audio represents a significantly larger market. The first such business arrangement is being finalized with a well known maker of consumer and professional audio headphones. The success of this project will create engineering and business sector jobs as well as manufacturing jobs. Near term, the Phase I project includes funding for a high school student or college undergraduate to participate in the research.

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

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