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.
Multi-Parameter Aerosol Scattering Sensor
The Multi-Parameter Aerosol Scattering Sensor (MPASS), developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, characterizes atmospheric particles, enabling real-time environmental monitoring often critical for public safety. This optical sensor can characterize virtually any particle, as small as nanometer-scale, without the need for calibration against a known aerosol. The universal sensor functions as an independent portable sensor to quantify inaccessible conditions such as volcanic activity and wildfires through remote monitoring and can also function as part of a sensor network within a factory or other facility for air quality and fire detection. Lightweight and compact, the unit is ideal for surveillance missions when integrated onto a drone or other unmanned aerial vehicle or as a personal health monitoring device for first responders and public safety professionals.
Contact: NASA Glenn Research Center
Metal Foam for Compact HVAC
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory demonstrated that metal foam enhances the evaporation process in thermal conversion systems and enables the development of compact heating, ventilation, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) units. Compact and efficient HVAC-&R equipment is needed to support the global industry transition to using alternative, environmentally friendly refrigerants. A small-scale evaporator proved metal foam is well-suited for compact systems. The presence of a porous open-cell or sponge-like metal foam layer in an evaporator’s tubes increases the liquid refrigerant’s boiling rate, creating essentially an enhanced pool-boiling process that can accommodate much higher heat fluxes compared to conventional technology.
Contact: Jennifer J. Burke
Capsule Orally Delivers Injectable Drugs
A new coated drug capsule developed by MIT and Novo Nordisk can carry insulin or other protein drugs and protect them from the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal tract. When the capsule reaches the small intestine, it breaks down to reveal dissolvable microneedles that attach to the intestinal wall and release a drug for uptake into the bloodstream. When the capsule reaches the small intestine, the higher pH (around 6) triggers it to break open, and three folded arms inside the capsule spring open. Each arm contains patches of 1-millimeter-long microneedles. When the arms unfold open, the force of their release allows the tiny microneedles to just penetrate the topmost layer of the small intestine tissue. After insertion, the needles dissolve and release the drug.