WED AM News: WARF touting tech for analyzing soft materials; PSC extends public comment period for We Energies rate case, Sen. Wirch says

— The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation is seeking partners to help commercialize a new method for analyzing the properties of soft materials. 

According to an info sheet from WARF, which handles patenting and licensing for UW-Madison technologies, researchers at the university have developed a specialized portable device called a vibrometer that can assess the strength and durability of these materials. 

The device measures “acoustic emissions,” which occur in solid materials when they experience changes to internal structure such as a crack or other deformation. It measures variables such as amplitude, frequency and duration of these signals from “incredibly small fractures” at various locations, an overview from WARF shows. 

According to this info sheet, acoustic emissions testing has been used for hard materials such as ceramics and concrete to gather data for structural testing and monitoring. But it “has yet to be widely studied” in soft materials. 

Currently, softer materials are usually tested and analyzed with destructive methods that involve bending, puncturing, indenting or cutting. This is done for a wide array of applications such as food processing and medical devices, but WARF says an “efficient, minimally invasive technique that works in real time is needed.” 

The specialized vibrometer was developed by Melih Eriten and Corrine Henak, both assistant professors in the university’s Mechanical Engineering Department. 

Their team has tested it using gelatin-based materials of various compositions, creating fractures in these materials and measuring the acoustic emissions. Using their readings, they were able to determine the “failure properties” of the materials, providing insight on their structural capabilities. 

See more details on the invention here:

— The state Public Service Commission has extended the public comment period for a proposed We Energies rate increase, according to a release from Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers. 

Wirch and Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, said in a release they requested the extension. The deadline for public comments on the rate increase, which was previously 5 p.m. Nov. 7, has now been extended through Monday, the release shows. 

The PSC’s extension comes after a recent public comment period in Milwaukee on the utility company’s proposed 13 percent increase for residential electric rates in 2023. While some members of the public showed up to support the company’s request, most who attended the afternoon public comment period were against the rate increase. 

In a statement, Wirch says the additional week for public comment is “great news.” 

“The issue was flying under the radar for a while, and people can’t comment on something they’re not aware of,” he said in the release. “Now more light has been shined on the proposal, so it’s great that they can still register their positions with the PSC.” 

See the release: 

See coverage of last week’s PSC hearing: 

— The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has dropped the lawsuit it filed on behalf of the Brown County Taxpayers Association challenging President Biden’s program to relieve student loan debt.

WILL’s suit was rejected by a federal judge based in Green Bay, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue a stay while it considered the merits of the case. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett then declined last month to pause the program while WILL challenged it.

Since then, a separate court has put the program on hold.

WILL on Monday filed a motion with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to voluntarily dismiss the case as part of an agreement with Biden and the U.S. Department of Education. It was granted later in the day.

The motion didn’t include any details on why WILL sought to dismiss the case.

Read the order:

Read the motion: 

— Foxconn Technology Group is disputing a property value assessment for a six-story downtown office building it owns in Green Bay, according to a report from Wisconsin Public Radio. 

WPR reports the company’s WaterMark building saw a 23.2 percent increase in its value following a recent revaluation process, from $6.8 million to $8.4 million. Foxconn is expected to sue the city to appeal the assessment, per the report. 

See more in Foxconn Reports below. 

— The Wisconsin Technology Council’s annual Early Stage Symposium kicks off in Madison today with startup presentations, expert panel discussions and awards for leaders in the state’s startup ecosystem. 

The two-day event is being held in-person at the Monona Terrace this year. Day one of the conference will feature startup founders presenting as part of the Tech Council’s Investor Networks track, as well as an awards ceremony for gener8tor co-founders Joe Kirgues and Troy Vosseller. 

See the event agenda: 

See the list of companies presenting at this year’s conference: 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report …</b></i> 

— One of the state’s top medical experts is warning a respiratory virus called RSV poses a major health challenge this year, especially for children and the elderly. 

And in a recent study, UW-Madison scientists analyzed differences between the brains of humans and other primates to better understand developmental disorders. 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and</i>

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<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

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Sen. Wirch: Public Service Commission extends comment period on WE Energies rate increases