The Create the Future Design Contest was launched in 2002 to help stimulate and reward engineering innovation. In the past 17 years, the annual contest has drawn more than 14,000 product design ideas from engineers, students, and entrepreneurs worldwide.

Top prizes in the 2019 contest — including the Grand Prize and winning designs in seven categories — were awarded on November 8 in New York City.

Find descriptions of all winning inventions and honorable mentions here .

Saving Lives One Organ at a Time

Organ shortage is among the greatest crises facing biomedicine today. One of the main reasons for the present shortage of organs is due to organ preservation constraints; for example, current technology cannot preserve hearts for more than 4 to 6 hours and the distance between donor and recipient becomes a significant problem. Every 30 seconds, a patient dies from diseases that could be treated with vascularized tissue replacement.

A team at Vascular Perfusion Solutions (VPS) has invented the Universal Limb/Organ Stasis System for Extended Storage (ULiSSES™) — winner of the Grand Prize. The unique medical device extends organ and limb viability by providing organ and limb resuscitation, preservation, and transport capabilities in both civilian and military environments. It uses only a small oxygen cylinder for power and active perfusion to allow transport of organs or limbs anywhere in the world.

ULiSSES is single-use, simple to operate, lightweight, and inexpensive. It can easily be transported in a commercial airliner where it can be stored in an overhead compartment or under the seat. On the battlefield, ULiSSES offers a flexible casing option using the same fluid carried by medics in common IV bags to preserve an amputated hand, arm, or leg until a warfighter can have it reattached at a hospital.

Leonid Bunegin, Chief Scientific Officer at Vascular Perfusion Solutions, said, “Our ULiSSES device is designed to be portable, affordable, and easy to use, which makes it more accessible to more hospitals, doctors, and most importantly, transplant patients.”

With its ability to preserve and resuscitate organs and limbs for more than 24 hours, ULiSSES removes the geographic limitations associated with transportation. And with more organs available, surgeons are able to select a better match, rather than settling for a possible match.

A Passion for Inclusion

Bernt Nilsson of contest sponsor COMSOL with Aerospace & Defense category winner Kevin Kleber of the University of Zurich.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than one billion people with disabilities on the planet — about 300 million are non-verbal and depend on alternative communication devices. Moved by the needs of his disabled daughter, Livox International CEO and Founder Carlos Pereira created Livox, winner of the Consumer Products category.

Consumer Products category winner Carlos Pereira of Livox.

“My inspiration is my 11-year-old daughter, Clara,” said Pereira. “She has cerebral palsy due to a medical mistake during my wife’s labor. From the moment I found out about her condition, empowering people with disabilities became a passion for me. Out of this passion, I created Livox and we are benefiting over 25,000 people with disabilities in 10 countries. We need to live in a more inclusive world where people with all abilities find their way in society.”

Livox is an alternative communication software for non-verbal people with disabilities and people with learning impairments. Through Livox, non-verbal people can speak, learn how to read and write, and understand abstract concepts.

Imagine a severely disabled child trying to communicate that he is hungry. Livox analyzes the user behavior; in the most likely time for him to be hungry, it shows a card saying, “I am hungry,” so the person with a disability can say that.

Morphing Drone

Tadashi Kubo of AC Biode, winner of the Automotive/Transportation category.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying robot could look for people trapped inside and guide the rescue team towards them. But drones often have to enter the building through a crack in a wall, a partially open window, or through bars — something the typical drone does not allow.

A team from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) invented a novel, simpler, yet effective morphing design for quadrotors that took Aerospace & Defense Category honors. It consists of a frame with four independently rotating arms that fold around the main frame. The morphing drone can negotiate narrow gaps, perform close inspection of vertical surfaces, and grasp and transport objects. The key is a control system that adapts in real time to any new position of the arms, adjusting the thrust of the propellers as the center of gravity shifts.

The “Biode” Battery

Winner of the Electronics/Sensors/IoT category, Steven Risser of Battelle.

The battery is a crucial element of our daily lives. As devices become more mobile and interconnected, demands for higher battery capacity, longer duration, and better safety grow. Lithium-ion batteries use a Direct Current (DC) system, so electricity needs to be converted from Alternating Current (AC) directly from the power grid to DC in order to be stored in the form of batteries, resulting in power losses.

A team from AC Biode Ltd. in Japan developed the first standalone AC battery, which won the Automotive/ Transportation Category. According to Tadashi Kubo of AC Biode, “The general public has grudgingly accepted that the battery electricity source must be DC. Although it is true that it makes sense to use DC batteries for lower-power devices such as lights, radios, or smartphones, battery applications for electric vehicles, drones, or electric airplanes consume much more power within the same amount of time.”

The new battery integrates the Biode — a new type of electrode — to enable an AC system for power storage to deliver batteries that have more capacity, last longer, and are safer. The Biode allows the AC battery to be approximately 30% more compact and safer than DC batteries.

Early Detection of Battery Faults

When batteries catastrophically fail, they can overheat, rupture, or explode. Said Steve Risser of Battelle, winners of the Electronics/ Sensors/IoT category,“Batteries are in everything, from the mobile phone in your pocket to the car you are driving, so battery safety is an area that calls for exceptional engineering innovations.”

Battelle’s innovation is a simple, cost-effective sensor that detects the onset of battery faults early, during charging and use, without negatively affecting battery performance. In a standard battery, there is a separator between electrodes but when dendrites — small metal protrusions that grow from an electrode — get big enough, they can pierce the separator, span the gap between electrodes, and cause a short circuit. Battelle’s sensor uses the battery separator to help visibly detect when dendrites start to form.

By reducing the risk of faults going undetected, the battery can be charged higher and longer, enabling longer run times and use life. These benefits can be incorporated for less than 10% of the battery cost.

Easy Joining of Metals and Plastics

Philipp Goetze of Fraunhofer IWS, winner of the Manufacturing/Robotics/Automation category.

Innovative concepts in lightweight engineering for automotive and aerospace applications increasingly incorporate multi-material design. A special challenge is the joining process. Existing technologies to join metals to polymers are ineffective because of process time or because they don’t apply the forces optimally into the material. The HeatPressCool-Integrative (HPCI®) joining gun tool enables direct metal-to-polymer joining.The system — winner of the Manufacturing/Robotics/ Automation category — was developed by a team at Fraunhofer IWS in Germany and is based on thermal direct joining.

A polymer is heated at the interface of the two materials and simultaneously pressed against pretreated sheet metal. After solidifying, the assemblies are bonded with no additional material needed.

Process times can be cut from several minutes for conventional adhesive bonding processes to a fraction of a second. Surface pretreatment of the polymer is not necessary and no potentially harmful adhesives are used.

Cervical Stabilization Device

Medical category winner Julie Causey of ViaTech MD.

Preterm birth (PTB) is a growing global healthcare crisis and the leading cause of infant death within the first months of life.

Winner of the Medical Category, Via-TechMD developed the Cervical Stabilization Device (CSD), a cost-effective, non-invasive, medication-free preventative treatment designed to support a successful and natural birth by addressing a range of conditions known to contribute to PTB such as cervical incompetence, known cases of organ and tissue compromise, multiple fetus pregnancies, late-in-life pregnancies, and others.

According to inventor Benjamin Booher, “Inspiration came from my family’s own frightening experiences facing the threat of preterm birth.” He then became much more aware of the growing human healthcare crisis of preterm birth, which takes the lives of nearly 3,000 babies each day.

According to Booher, the award “brings hope of accelerating our breakthrough device-based treatment to the millions of underserved families each year who face frightening and often heartbreaking challenges around premature childbirth. “

Clean Water from Ocean Waves

Sustainable Technologies category winner Oliver Libby of Resolute Marine.

More than two billion people suffer from the effects of scarcity of clean water. Seawater desalination is an excellent potential solution but such systems require connection to a reliable electrical grid for their power supply.

Resolute Marine — winners of the Sustainable Technologies category — developed Wave2O™, a wave-driven desalination system that can be deployed quickly, operate completely off-grid, and supply large quantities of clean, fresh water at competitive cost. Said Olivier Ceberio of Resolute Marine, the technology,“if successful, could provide water to the poorest communities in coastal areas, potentially saving lives of millions and by displacing carbon emission, save the planet in the process.”

Wave2O harnesses the abundant and consistent energy of ocean waves to directly drive the desalination process.Though there is no electricity in the manufacturing process, Wave2O can co-generate electricity to fulfill customers’ needs or pump the water where needed.

THE 2019 CREATE THE FUTURE DESIGN CONTEST WAS SPONSORED BY COMSOL AND MOUSER ELECTRONICS

COMSOL  is a global provider of simulation software for product design and research to technical enterprises, research labs, and universities. Its COMSOL Multi-physics® product is an integrated software environment for creating physics-based models and simulation applications. COMSOL has 19 offices worldwide and extends its reach with a network of distributors.

Mouser Electronics , a Berkshire Hathaway company, is an award-winning, authorized semiconductor and electronic component distributor focused on rapid New Product Introductions from its manufacturing partners for electronic design engineers and buyers. The global distributor’s website, Mouser.com, is available in multiple languages and currencies and features more than 5 million products from over 750 manufacturers. Mouser offers 26 support locations around the world to provide best-in-class customer service and ships globally to over 630,000 customers in more than 223 countries/territories from its 750,000-sq.- ft. state-of-the-art facility south of Dallas, TX.

Mark Your Calendars! The 2020 contest opens for entries on March 1 here .

Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2019 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.