Queen’s University researchers have gained recognition for the discoveries they have made in medicine, engineering, and the sciences, and innovations that have improved the lives of people around the world. To make sure that the university and the public continue to benefit from this work, Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) promotes the discoveries of university researchers who have assigned their intellectual property to Queen’s and whose work is ready for licensing and commercial application. QPI leads the commercialization processes, including the protection of the intellectual property, the creation of strategies to further its development, the search for funders, partners, and licensees, the negotiation of terms, the management of relationships, the collection of licensing and royalty revenues, and their disbursement to inventors.

The Technology Development Pilot Project (TDPP), which Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) launched with a call for proposals to be submitted in July 2021, awarded funding in November 2021 to three research projects.

Yan-Fei Liu
Dr. Yan-Fei Liu. Photo courtesy of Dr. Liu.

The Pilot Project, enabled by the Vice-Principal Research Portfolio (VPR) and administered by QPI, aimed to advance selected inventions with commercial potential to position them for other funding opportunities and make them attractive to potential licensees or investors.

Dr. Yan-Fei Liu, Professor and Chair of Graduate Studies in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s, was one of the recipients of TDPP funding. His approved research project, which included collaboration with and support from DigiQ Power, enabled Dr. Liu and his team to develop novel technology to accurately transfer the value of the output voltage from the secondary (output) side to the primary (input) side of a power adapter. This project, known as “Pulse Width Modulation Voltage Output Sensing” technology, used digital control features to achieve an accuracy goal with an error of only 3%, a significant advancement compared to previous designs that have errors of approximately 10%. Moreover, the technology was integrated and tested in DigiQ Power’s 160W Power Adapter Solution. The TDPP funding enabled the payment of salaries for a Queen’s student and post-doctoral fellow, while engineering in-kind support and materials were provided by DigiQ Power, a startup co-founded by Dr. Liu and with which Queen’s has license agreements.

At the start of the project, Dr. Liu expected that the resulting power adapter would not only be smaller and lower cost to make but would be capable of charging laptops, cell phones, and tablets more quickly than anything currently available on the market.

“During the project, we invented two ways to transfer the output value information. We have tested one method and it is working as expected. We have successfully used this technology in our 100W power adapter design,” says Dr. Liu.

With real time and accurate measurement of output voltage, Dr. Liu’s team has implemented an intelligent control to improve the thermal performance of the power adapter. They have also developed computer code to implement this technology in a microcontroller unit. So far, the prototype is working well.

The technology already has a commercial application. DigiQ Power has developed strategic partnerships with several stakeholders in the ecosystem and is poised to bring the technology to market.

“This collaborative project with DigiQ Power represents a key step in the commercialization of a portfolio of Queen’s patents with strong market potential,” says Dr. Shoma Sinha, Partnerships Development Officer with QPI.

“We will use this technology for all future designs because it will provide much better performance with simpler circuits,” says Dr. Liu.

A U.S. provisional patent application has been filed and with assistance from QPI’s patent team formal patent applications will be filed in the U.S., Canada, and China in July 2023. This will pave the way for commercialization of a variety of products that utilize this technology in combination with other advanced solutions licensed by Queen’s to DigiQ.