July 11, 2016
As cell phones and other wireless technologies proliferate, there is growing concern about the health effects of electromagnetic (EM) radiation these devices emit. Tiny Tech, a new startup that began in the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Engineering, is addressing those concerns by weaving effective EM radiation shielding into clothing.
The Tiny Tech team brings together talent from VCU Engineering and the Brandcenter. Umar Hasni, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering and Margaret Karles, a student in the VCU Brandcenter’s Experience Design program, have joined Erdem Topsakal, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to develop the product and form the company. They are united in their enthusiasm for technology, and in their commitment to make it safer.
But why screen out EM radiation selectively? Topsakal explains that a 100% reflective surface is essentially a metal sheet – the kind of thing being manufactured overseas today. Those garments are expensive and notoriously uncomfortable. Worse, their stiff fabrics create openings, usually around the arms and neck, which allow radio waves in and can even keep them from escaping.
Using their patent-pending technology, Tiny Tech is able to produce fabric flexible enough to fit the body’s contours comfortably while also screening out 99.9% of EM radiation waves.
They are rolling the product out to expectant mothers first. Karles explains that consumer data indicate expectant mothers, who number approximately 4 million annually in the U.S., are particularly concerned about EM radiation. Many pregnant women are removing wireless technologies from their homes and going back to hard wiring.
Tiny Tech has attracted multiple investors. They received $5,000 from the VCU Pre-Accelerator program, which also designated Tiny Tech as “Most Scale-able Company.” They also won $4,000 from the VCU Venture Creation Competition. Most recently, they were awarded $15,000 from the VCU Quest for Innovation Commercialization Fund. They are applying for the Richmond-based Lighthouse Labs Accelerator Fund, along with a few other accelerator programs. In the meantime, they will use their $24,000 in seed capital to produce and test prototypes this summer.
After this summer’s intensive prototyping phase, the team would like to see a soft launch, with online sales starting next summer. In 2018, they will assess and evaluate the company. They plan to license the Tiny Tech process to clothing manufacturers and would like to see the Tiny Tech brand become as ubiquitous – and as trusted – as the “Cotton” logo.
This article reprinted from materials provided by Virginia Commonwealth University.