Current and Past Sprout Projects

Development of Solar Heat Collector Modules for Long-Term and Controlled Energy Storage for Building Applications

Solar panel
Grace Han,* Mihael Gerkman, Qianfeng Qiu

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration report in 2019, the residential energy consumption is ~740 billion kWh per year on average, which is 25% of total yearly energy usage. Specifically, 38% of the energy consumption is dedicated for heating the indoor environment, using electricity, gas, and oil. This translates to the yearly expense of $73 billion on residential heating and 410 million metric tons of CO2 emission resulting from it. There exists, therefore, a critical need to improve the efficiency of residential heating systems and to reduce the fossil fuel consumption by providing a renewable energy source for heating.

This solar thermal energy storage device provides an efficient alternative to current technologies. With energy generation only possible during daylight hours, solar energy requires energy storage systems. Using phase change materials (PCMs) that are capable of controllably storing solar energy and releasing it in the form of heat through their chemical and physical changes), this system can store solar energy reliably and provide a carbon-free hot water solution for the entire day.

Optical Control of Organic Catalysts for Industrial Applications

Pharmaceutical industry
Grace Han*, Alejandra Gonzalez, Joshua Wan

Homogenous, or same-phase catalysts, are often used in the pharmaceutical industry, and these are commonly small, metal organic complexes that are completely dissolved in reaction mixtures. Homogeneous catalysts exhibit a high selectivity, being suitable for sophisticated synthesis; however, their separation and recovery are extremely difficult. They require extensive purification steps and often lead to the one-time usage of such costly catalysts. In addition, separated homogeneous catalysts need to be treated with strong acids to recover the precious metal components - a toxic and time-consuming process. 

Industries looking to reduce costs as well as environmental impact would benefit from improving their catalyst usage. Not only would recoverable and recyclable homogeneous catalysts cut the expense on purchasing fresh catalysts, but it would also reduce the environmental impact that comes from metal refining and regeneration of such catalysts.

Molecular Nanotechnology Eliminating Undifferentiated Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) for Cell Therapy

Bing Xu*, Shuang Liu, Adrianna Shy

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) can be formed into other cell types, having enormous potential for cell therapy, but the risk of tumor formation from undifferentiated cells (cells that stay the same) remains a major obstacle. This project is developing a molecular nanotechnology to eliminate undifferentiated iPSCs selectively by enzyme-instructed self-assembly (EISA). This can contribute to ensuring the safety of cell therapy, thus improving the treatment of human diseases.

Sema4D: Rapid Assembly of Inhibitory Synapses in the Brain as a Novel Treatment for Epilepsy

Suzanne Paradis,* Vernon Clarke

Epilepsy is a spectrum disorder of over 25 syndromes. It is characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures with onset most often occurring during childhood or with advancing age and represents the 4th most common neurological disorder in the US. Over 150,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed every year and approximately one-third will be diagnosed with drug resistant epilepsy (DRE) and must live with chronic intractable seizures. 

Sema4D represents a new and exciting disease-modifying therapeutic strategy that offers hope to afflicted individuals and their families for the treatment of intractable seizures. Brandeis research has demonstrated that Sema4D causes new inhibitory connections between neurons on a time scale fast enough to reduce ongoing seizure activity in animal models. The proposed work plans to investigate various modalities through which Sema4D can be introduced in the brain.

See Past Projects