SBIR Phase II: High-performance Polymer Composites for Mouth Guards

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$747K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Akervall Technologies Inc.
5520 Stone Valley Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project anticipates bringing forth a disruptive mouth guard technology that answers the urgent need for better dental protection. In the US alone, every year more than 1 million dental injuries occur, resulting in medical costs of roughly $500 million. The proposed technology will involve novel manufacturing methods to incorporate energy absorbing solid/liquid suspensions into novel thermo-polymer mouth guard designs to achieve enhanced impact energy absorption capacity. The specific technical objectives are to optimize the energy absorbing capacity of the formulated solid/liquid suspensions, develop the necessary manufacturing technology for incorporating such solid/liquid suspensions monolithically into the thermo- polymer, and finally to characterize the mouth guards by subjection to stress testing (chemical, physical, and thermal). This energy absorbing mouth guard will deliver on-demand, tunable energy absorption capacity that can be specifically tailored to provide superior dental protection to users in several venues including medical, sports, industrial and military. This R & D effort will produce the first ever mouth guard made with material that adaptively absorbs impact energy, a stark technological contrast to the conventional (passive) mouth guard. This new technology will also contribute basic understanding to the emerging field of nanorheology. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is significant. In just the mouth guard arena, realizing this technologically advanced mouth guard will likely bring a novel product into the dental protection market. Then there is the untapped market to provide much needed dental protection for patients undergoing medical procedures. Yearly about 150,000 dental injuries occur just during endotracheal intubations, required when undergoing general anesthesia. Further, the new energy absorbing fluid-thermopolymer material technology to emerge could serve as the technical groundwork for a plethora of energy dampening products. In addition, the research stands to seed a new body of knowledge, small- scale (millimeter) leveraged use of energy absorptive fluids. Realizing the technical objectives of this Phase II R & D effort will help foster local economic growth when the company?s new manufacturing facility opens for the fabrication of mouth guards based on this technology. A large number of jobs will be created requiring very diverse technical skills, and the company is committed to fill these jobs with a diverse work force.