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ExploraVison National Science Competition Winners



1st place

Letitia Hubbard (Coach), Amy Lei, Arianna Lee, Yvonne Shih, Vishnu Vanapalli
N4NO (Nanocarriers for Neuroprosthetic Optimization) – a novel noninvasive neural dust insertion method through cerebrospinal-fluid route via micelles for neuroprosthetic aid

An estimated 35-40 million people require prosthetics and orthotic devices. Neuroprosthetics utilize brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to record and analyze neural signals, enabling patients to cognitively control an external prosthetic. Unfortunately, wireless invasive BCIs, the most accurate, rely on craniotomy for insertion, which can cause brain damage. Nanocarriers are often used for targeted drug delivery, encasing therapeutics in their core for transport and release. Our solution, N4NO (Nanocarriers for Neuroprosthetic Optimization), provides a minimally invasive method of inserting neural dust “motes”, an extremely small BCI. Polymeric micelle nanocarriers deliver these motes to a specific location in the brain via cerebrospinal fluid through intrathecal injection. Once released, the mote attached to a self-folding cuff wraps around a specific nerve, enabling accurate recording of brain activity and nerve stimulation. Using neurofeedback and AI modeling, patients would be able to exhibit seamless neuroprosthetic control, improving their quality of life without the dangers of craniotomy.

Project website

2nd place

Tracy LaGrassa (Coach), Johnston Chen, Liah Igel, Liam Hernandez
Mycelial batteries: incorporating electrically conductive fungi into sodium-ion batteries in order to increase their efficiency and lifespan

We discovered that Lithium (Li+) Ion batteries are inefficient to produce and harm the environment, so we propose to incorporate fungi into Sodium (Na+) Ion batteries to help combat problems of battery degradation, improve energy density, and storage capacity. Degradation happens due to reactions that occur in the electrolyte between battery electrodes that cause buildup of excess material that impedes ion flow and is the principal cause of thermal runaway, which causes batteries to explode. We propose to replace the electrolyte with live fungal hyphae to facilitate the transfer of ions between the two battery electrodes, removing side reactions that could cause build up, and would prolong the life of the battery. To complement this, we would incorporate anode material made from portobello mushrooms to replace the graphite anode material, which is the industry standard. This new anode material would increase energy density and storage capacity.

Project website