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.
Advanced Biometric Identification System
University of Southern California researchers built a more secure biometric authentication system that detects spoofing. The system creates and combines — in different combinations — 3D cameras, shortwave infrared sensors, lasers, other imaging devices, and artificial intelligence algorithms.
The information is fused to provide data for the algorithm to give a detailed analysis of a person’s face, iris, and fingerprint. With the system, a person could not spoof an iris identification system by wearing an almost imperceptible mask with an image of another person’s eyes printed on it. The system’s lasers could capture blood flow, while shortwave infrared sensors could distinguish between real skin and a mask made of silicone, paper, or any other material. Applications would include any entity that currently depends on, or would depend on, biometrics for phone access, border control, etc.
Contact: Amy Blumenthal, USC
Graphene Biosensor for Early Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Scientists from the University of Exeter (UK) developed a technique to create a highly sensitive graphene biosensor with the capability to detect molecules of the most common lung cancer bio-markers. The biosensor design could revolutionize existing electronic nose (e-nose) devices that identify specific components of a specific vapor mixture — for example, a person’s breath — and analyzes its chemical make-up to identify the cause. The device could identify specific lung cancer markers at the earliest possible stage, in a convenient and reusable way, making it both cost-effective and highly beneficial for health service providers worldwide. Using patterned, multi-layered graphene electrodes, the team showed greater sensing capabilities for three of the most common lung cancer biomarkers — ethanol, isopropanol, and acetone — across a range of different concentrations.
Contact: Duncan Sandes, University of Exeter
Phone: +44 01392 722391
High-Voltage Water Purification
NASA’s Glenn Research Center discovered a unique water purification method that can be used for water recycling or point-of-use applications. Eliminating costly consumables like chemicals or ultraviolet lamps and relying on only electrical energy, this technology uses plasma-generated reactive species to decompose organic contaminants ranging from submicron particles to water-soluble organics like glycol, ethanol, and industrial dyes. The pulsed electrical discharge destroys micro-organisms in liquid, essentially sterilizing the water. The plasma pulse technology can function as a standalone purification process or as an add-on to existing solutions as a polishing step. Applications include treatment of water for industrial, agricultural, healthcare, oil and gas extraction, sewer and storm water, livestock, and pharmaceutical uses.