Houston startup growing fast, licenses Air Force design for solar-powered smartphones

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Credit: courtesy SOL Cuff

Lawrence Boysen is watching as a second nor'easter storm prepares to rake the northeast U.S leaving millions without power. He understands well the head and heartache of destructive weather.

Last summer, Boysen witnessed Hurricane Harvey's devastation on Houston, flooding his home and snapping the city's power lines.

"Being without power really puts a strain on you, a stress on all your resources," Boysen said. "It creates a challenge to keep your devices powered especially when you're trapped and need to stay in touch with family."

Boysen, 44, has thought about being without power more than most in this era of mobile phones. In 2013, he patented a wearable solar-powered device called SOL Cuff, which resembles a large wristband made of six tiny solar panels that charge an integrated battery.

The power flows to 4 LED lights and a micro-USB 5-volt charging port embedded in the SOL Cuff, making it ideal for emergency responders and stranded civilians who need to charge their phones.

When Hurricane Harvey hit, SOL Cuff Technologies fulfilled its first order, 33,600 portable chargers for the Texas Army National Guard.

The fast-growing company can't keep up with demand, which surges every time there's a natural disaster baring our collective reliance on wall chargers. Did I mention SOL Cuff is waterproof?

And like many tech startups, SOL Cuff is already innovating.

On Wednesday, after working with TechLink's Marti Elder on creating a commercialization plan and license application, the Texas startup signed a patent license agreement for the Air Force Research Laboratory's "mobile device arm mount."

The Air Force's patented wristband was invented by researchers at the 711th Human Performance Wing and features a customizable twist-lock tensioning system and a multi-layer blend of soft and rigid components that conform to the muscle and structure of the forearm.

"We're already prototyping our second model and were actively searching for a high-functioning wrist mount when we located the Air Force patent on TechLink's website," Boysen said.

Committed to innovation in civilian and government markets, SOL Cuff is also seeking a cooperative research and development agreement with the Air Force so the two parties can work together on improved designs.

"We recently attended the Dismounted Warfighter Power and Energy Industry Day at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland," Boysen said. "This gave us good insights into the technology gaps and capabilities we can provide to the warfighter."

Patent license agreements and cooperative research and development agreements are the primary tools of technology transfer partnerships between federal laboratories and industry.

TechLink, the Department of Defense's national partnership intermediary, specializes in marketing and licensing DoD technology to industry. It facilitates about 60 percent of all DoD patent license agreements and works closely with the Air Force Technology Transfer Program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

"At the end of the day SOL Cuff is going to help grow the economy, expand the defense innovation base and support the warfighter," Elder said. "We couldn't be happier to help pair a great company with a great laboratory."

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