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.
Cryptographic ID Tag Protects the Supply Chain
To combat supply chain counterfeiting, MIT invented a cryptographic ID tag that’s small enough to fit on virtually any product to verify its authenticity. The millimeter-sized tag runs on relatively low levels of power supplied by photovoltaic diodes. The low-cost, tiny, monolithic chip was designed with no packaging, batteries, or other external components, and stores and transmits sensitive data. The chip runs a popular cryptography scheme that guarantees secure communications using extremely low energy. The signal range allows for convenient use of a portable tag scanner; eventually, many of the tags could ping one reader positioned somewhere far away. The chips are so small, easy to make, and inexpensive that they can also be embedded into larger silicon computer chips that are especially popular targets for counterfeiting.
Contact: Abby Abazorius
Stretchable Thermoelectric Generators
Linköping University researchers developed a soft and stretchable organic thermoelectric module that can harvest energy from body heat. It uses a new composite material that may have widespread use in smart clothing, wearable electronics, and electronic skin. Three materials were combined — a conducting polymer, polyurethane rubber, and an ionic liquid — to create the printable composite. It was formulated by water-based solution blending and can be printed onto various surfaces. When the surface flexes or folds, the composite follows the motion. The process to manufacture the composite is inexpensive and environmentally friendly.
Contact: Nara Kim, Linköping University, Sweden
Phone: +46 11 36 33 23
High-Reliability Radio Frequency MEMS Switch
NASA’s Glenn Research Center has developed a radio frequency MEMS switching device that uses non-metallic cantilevers/bridges as the main mechanical component, significantly improving the RF characteristics and dramatically enhancing the reliability of the switch. The device can withstand and operate in harsh environments, survive high-power applications, and be assembled into various configurations. The RF MEMS switch uses thin-film, stress- and conductivity-controlled, non-metallic bridge/cantilever structures that are extremely resistant to sagging and failure. Applications include wireless communication systems, vehicle anti-collision systems, homeland security, industrial instrumentation systems, and military.