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.
Ultrasound Delivers Therapeutics Inside the Body
Penn State developed a method using ultrasound to deliver therapeutic proteins inside the body. An acoustically sensitive carrier encapsulates the proteins and ultrasound guides the package to the exact location. Ultrasound then breaks the capsule, allowing the protein to enter the cell. The system can be used to deliver antibodies, which are attractive therapeutic molecules in precision medicine that cannot otherwise get inside cells. It can also deliver antibodies that alter abnormal signaling pathways in tumor cells to effectively turn off their malignant traits. The method can be performed using ultrasound techniques already employed in hospitals.
Penn State University
3D-Printing Dry Goods Delivery System
Researchers at NASA Kennedy Space Center created the Dry Goods Delivery System for 3D printing, which can diversify and expand the capabilities of existing additive construction processes. The precision mixing capabilities could drastically increase the ability to program and customize additive construction machinery, increasing the market viability of 3D-printed concrete. The system mixes coarse sand, fine sand, cement, silica fume, fly ash, and gravel together and delivers the mixture to a mechanism where the wet commodities are added to create the concrete. Industrial applications include general construction, low-cost housing development, and temporary disaster relief centers and third world infrastructure development.
Kennedy Space Center
Miniature Lung-Heart Sensor on a Chip
A team at Georgia Tech developed a miniature sensor on a chip that acts as an advanced electronic stethoscope and accelerometer in one. It detects vibrations that enter the chip from inside the body and records, simultaneously, fine details of the heartbeat, waves the heart sends through the body, and respiration rates and lung sounds. It even tracks the wearer’s physical activities such as walking. The signals are recorded in sync, potentially offering the big picture of a patient’s heart and lung health. Three or more sensors could be inserted into a chest band that would triangulate health signals to locate their sources. A future version could pinpoint an emerging heart valve flaw or identify a cancerous lesion by faint crackling sounds in the lung.