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.
3D Printed Glucose Biosensors
Washington State University has created a 3D-printed glucose biosensor for use in wearable monitors, improving monitoring for millions of people who suffer from diabetes. The monitor offers better stability and sensitivity than those manufactured through traditional methods. Using direct ink writing (DIW) that involves printing “inks” out of nozzles to create intricate and precise designs at tiny scales, a nanoscale material was printed that is electrically conductive to create flexible electrodes. For large-scale use, the printed biosensors will be integrated with electronic components on a wearable platform. Manufacturers could use the same 3D printer nozzles used for printing the sensors to print electronics and other components of a wearable medical device, helping to consolidate manufacturing processes and reduce costs.
Contact: Holly C. Sitzmann, Executive Director, Strategic Communications
Low-Frequency Acoustic Measurement System
NASA's Langley Research Center developed a system to detect and locate atmospheric clear air turbulence (CAT) through a ground-based infrasonic array to serve as an early warning system for aircraft. This system could augment existing systems such as airborne lidar and radar. The existing electromagnetic methods lack targets at 30,000 to 40,000 feet and will not detect CAT. Because CAT and severe storms emit infrasound that propagates over vast distances through the Earth's atmosphere, the system offers an excellent early warning opportunity. Other applications include severe weather monitoring including tornado chasing via portable infrasound array, remote motion detection, and mine communications.
Contact: Langley Research Center
Sun-Soaking Device Turns Water into Superheated Steam
MIT engineers have built a device that soaks up enough heat from the Sun to boil water and produce “superheated” steam hotter than 100 °C without expensive optics. On a sunny day, the structure can passively pump out steam hot enough to sterilize medical equipment, as well as to use in cooking and cleaning. The steam may also supply heat to industrial processes, or it could be collected and condensed to produce desalinated, distilled drinking water. The new device — about the size of a small tablet computer — is suspended over the water to avoid any possible contamination. The device's design enables steam to be collected at a single point, in a concentrated stream, whereas previous designs produced more dilute spray.