This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that innovation.

Cyborg Cockroach

An international team led by researchers at the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research has engineered a system for creating remote-controlled cyborg cockroaches, equipped with a tiny wireless control module that is powered by a rechargeable battery. For the use of cyborg insects to be practical, handlers must be able to control them remotely for long periods of time. This requires wireless control of their leg segments, powered by a tiny rechargeable battery. Keeping the battery adequately charged is fundamental. To successfully integrate these devices into a cockroach that has limited surface area required the research team to develop a special backpack, ultrathin organic solar cell modules, and an adhesion system that keeps the machinery attached for long periods of time while also allowing natural movements. Cyborg insects can be used to inspect hazardous areas or monitor the environment.

Contact: Masataka Sasabe
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Miniaturized Infrared Detectors

Extreme miniaturization of infrared (IR) detectors is critical for their integration into next-generation consumer electronics, wearables, and ultra-small satellites. Thus far, however, IR detectors have relied on bulky materials and technologies. A team of scientists at Empa has succeeded in developing a cost-effective miniaturization process for IR spectrometers based on a quantum dot photodetector, which can be integrated on a single chip. Miniaturization of infrared spectrometers will lead to their wider use in consumer electronics, such as smartphones enabling food control, the detection of hazardous chemicals, air pollution monitoring, and wearable electronics. They can also be useful for detecting counterfeit medical drugs as well as greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.

Contact: Rainer Klose
+41 58 765 47 33
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Nanophotonic Chip

A new photonic chip developed at Caltech may represent an important breakthrough for the field of computing and information processing, especially for enabling photonic quantum information processors. It can generate and measure quantum states of light in ways previously only possible with bulky and expensive laboratory equipment. The chip is based on lithium niobite, a salt whose crystals have many applications in optics. It generates what are known as squeezed states of light on one side of the chip and measures them on the other side. A squeezed state of light is, to put it very simply, light when it has been made less “noisy” on the quantum level. The technology could have applications in communications, sensing, and quantum computing.

Contact: Emily Evelasco
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