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.
Smartphone Screens as Water Sensors
The University of Cambridge (UK) used a typical touchscreen to identify common ionic contaminants in soil or drinking water by dropping liquid samples on the screen. The screen on a typical smartphone is covered in a grid of electrodes and when a finger disrupts the local electric field of these electrodes, the phone interprets the signal.
Instead of interpreting a signal from a finger, the touchscreen reads electrolytes, since the ions also interact with the electric fields. It could be expanded for a wide range of sensing applications including biosensing or medical diagnostics. One early application could be to detect arsenic contamination in drinking water.
Contact: Sarah Collins
+44 (0)1223 765542
NanoWire Glass Switch for Radio Frequency
NASA’s Glenn Research Center developed nanoionics-based radio frequency (RF) switches for use in devices that rely on low-power RF transmissions such as automotive systems, RFID technology, and smartphones. The switches operate at speeds of semiconductor switches and are more reliable than microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) switches. The electrochemical switch could replace MEMS and semiconductors in rectennas used in smart keys, safety devices, and other RFID-based devices as well as in healthcare sensing and diagnostic systems.
Contact: NASA’s Licensing Concierge
Soft Skin Patch Warns of Strokes and Heart Attacks
Engineers at the University of California San Diego developed a soft and stretchy ultrasound patch that can be worn on the skin to monitor blood flow through major arteries and veins deep inside a person’s body.
Knowing how fast and how much blood flows through a patient’s blood vessels can help diagnose cardiovascular conditions such as blood clots, heart valve problems, poor circulation, or blockages in the arteries that could lead to strokes or heart attacks. The patch can be worn on the neck or chest and continuously monitors blood flow, blood pressure, and heart function in real time.