Steve Risser is always working to make medical devices and other products stronger, smaller, safer or more functional. Over his 30-year career in materials science, he has been instrumental in the development of dozens of innovations across a diverse range of industries.
Since joining Battelle in 1999, Steve has worked on projects spanning electromagnetics, electrochemical properties and biomolecular interfaces for medical, defense and industrial clients. As part of the Battelle NeuroLife™ team, he helped to develop a flexible sleeve attached to a neural implant that allowed a paralyzed man to regain conscious control of his hand and fingers. Other work has included development of new materials for an adjustable replacement lens for cataract patients, a new conducting electrode gel for neural stimulation, and research on the interaction between small molecules and biopolymers for drug formulation.
More recently, he has been focused on designing the next generation of batteries for wearable medical devices and other consumer products. These conformable batteries would enable development of smaller, lighter devices and open up more design options for this growing category of medical products. Battelle’s conformational battery won the Consumer Products category in the 2017 Create the Future Design Contest sponsored by Tech Briefs.
Over the years, Steve has worked on more than 250 projects, led and supported five strategic initiatives, helped spin off a company and assisted in monetizing close to a dozen inventions. His work has earned several R&D 100 Awards and resulted in 26 U.S. patents and more than 30 refereed journal publications. Earlier this year, he was recognized as a Battelle Distinguished Inventor and Battelle’s Inventor of the Year for 2017. In recognition of these contributions, Steve was promoted in October to Senior Research Leader, a distinction shared with just 10 other colleagues at Battelle. As a Senior Research Leader, Steve is looking ahead strategically to identify promising opportunities for future materials science research.
One area where he sees a need for further research is in the interfaces between engineered and biological materials.
“Where two things come together is where all of the interesting things happen in materials science,” Steve explains. “We can now design functional materials that respond to other materials or the environment in interesting ways. As we learn more about how to engineer with biomaterials, it is going to open up new possibilities for wearable and implantable medical devices and other products. This is where I see a lot of the new opportunities in the 21st century.”
He also sees a need for continued research into power options for portable devices.
Steve’s work hasn’t been limited to the medical field. His innovations span consumer products, defense and industrial applications. After earning a B.S. in Physics from Case Western University and a Ph.D. in Physics from Kent State University, Steve focused his research on understanding the relationships between a material’s structure and its function. This focus has taken him in many different directions, including protective equipment, optics, sensors, photovoltaic devices and energy storage and harvesting.
No matter what the industry, his goal is always to find ways to translate new and existing technologies into real-world applications.
“We’re trying to speed the pace of technology development for the medical industry,” he says. “There is a lot of opportunity to translate solutions from adjacent markets, such as veterinary or food and beverage, into medical products that meet the needs of specific patient groups. We are always trying to understand the need and look for existing or novel technology solutions to fill it.”